Originally published Tuesday, 23 July 2019.
I feel like I’m failing at all the things my hands have touched or my feet have walked into. Being stretched thin, working dawn to dusk on two businesses, raising and homeschooling four young children, managing my home, and the feeling the weight of strained or broken relationships: it all has just left me physically worn-out with an emotionally tattered heart.
I decided I just needed to get my feet outdoors, into the spring air and sunshine, and work in the yard. I need to listen to my children squeal and laugh with delight as they run around playing with friends, while my hands work the earth and labor under the sun. It feels incredibly good to get my hands dirty, to prune my yard and remove all the dead things that have been hanging around.
As I did this, the verses in James about trials and the testing of your faith producing perseverance, and that we as Christ followers are to consider such things pure joy ran round and round in my mind.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. – James 1:2-6
“Pure joy?” I wondered, as the earth became pliable in my hands. “Lord, how in the world am I to consider this trial, that trial and all my heavy concurrent trials pure joy?! I can call it many things: tiresome, confusing, unjust, stretching, a painful growth… but pure joy? That’s likely the last thing I’d gravitate towards calling it.”
The pastor of Boro City Church in Tennessee, Trevor Atwood, said, “When the Word of God is not stretching you, you are probably changing the Word of God into something that will keep you comfortable.”
I stood to fight it and argue with God’s Word – I don’t want to consider my trials pure joy. I’m not sure I even can. The past few months have felt like they are killing me; joy and life are the very last things I feel like I can muster up. I thought, processed, prayed, and repented as the yard became my counselor that day. I prayed that the Lord would do in my life as I did in my yard: that He prune me of what shouldn’t be in my heart, that he’d clip away my discontent through my trials, and that He cleanse me of the areas that bore death and not life.
As I finished up and looked up over my yard: I saw it was good. Pruning takes devoted time; it demands perseverance. It requires getting your hands dirty to finish the work of cutting out death. Pruning is a job that may take longer than expected and even multiple attempts, but pruning should bring us joy. We can count it as joy, for it is removing death to allow for more growth and life.
I want to be able to look back over my year and say “that season took effort, purpose, and perseverance. At times it was painful but what a joyful thing, the good work Lord did in me.”
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Kayla Anderson is married (for better or for worse) to the one who she knows without a doubt that God created her to be companions with. Together they have four young children, Ezekiel, Asher, Ellery, and Alder, and run a hand-crafted soap shop. She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and is in a season of learning how to gracefully be the central point and glue of their family. Thank the Lord that she has Him to look to for wisdom, guidance, and strength! She loves reading in the quiet, early morning hours, decorating their sweet little home, writing has been part of her soul since she learned how to write letters, and her love of coffee runs deeper than her coffee pot. You can find more from Kayla on her blog or Instagram.