In James 1:5-7, James, known as the “brother of Jesus” declares, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
There are two main areas I’ve been pleading for wisdom for what seems like a lifetime; in career and in raising children—now young adults. Much of the time I feel as lost as I did a decade, or so, ago.
While flipping to this verse in James (highlighted in blue from years gone by—why am I always surprised by that?) it seems to stand out as if new to me (and that’s probably why).
Not a day goes by that something doesn’t happen, or some worrisome thought doesn’t pass by my mind where I’m saying something like, “Oh Lord! Please show me the direction I should take with ____.” I am ALWAYS asking for wisdom, it seems.
It’s the next two verses, James 1:6-7, that humble, chastise, and disciplines me.
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
If ever there was a simile I could best use to describe my life lately, it would be exactly that, like a wave being blown and tossed in all directions by the wind. Yup. EXACTLY. Up, down, left, right. I come up for air looking for some direction on which to grab hold. “Unstable”. Yes, that also seems to fit a bit too comfortably, at times. I call it “Life ADD”, but really, it’s just not having a firm foothold on direction.
Why is this so?
Do you know people who seem to not struggle with doubt? I do. Not coincidentally, unlike me, they seem to stay the course and not whine or worry nearly as much as I do about a lack of direction. (In fact, they often are the ones who remind me of what direction should be mine.When I will start writing on my blog again? Have I been doing any speaking lately? When will I start a Bible study again?)
Instead, I avoid pursuing these highly gratifying tasks by constantly looking for, and being frustrated by other moving parts in my life, as if they can’t exist simultaneously, which they can. Yes, I find worrying is a bit easier than risk, work, and discomfort. And do you know why? Fear. I fear I’ll fail, or even worse, I fear if I fail I’ll give up, and I fear sacrifice. I fear the unknown.
And where there’s fear, there’s doubt.
Today, unlike ever before, I zeroed in, not only on the concept of doubt that James is discussing, but also about James, himself. If there was anyone who could teach me a lesson on doubt, beside Doubting Thomas (with whom I feel a kinship, I cannot lie), it would be James.
James, known as “brother of Jesus”, is understood to be either Jesus’s actual brother, half- brother, or possibly cousin. All these descriptions could be considered brother in ancient tradition.
Now, I have two sons. As an only child, I’ve always wanted peace, understanding, and harmony between my children. As many of you know who have multiple children, or have siblings yourselves, you also understand on a personal level those underlying misgivings that are often held by siblings toward each other. It’s judgement, plain and simple. These judgments are conceived at early ages, and tend to become more justified throughout all the years and circumstances, to the point it’s very difficult for a sibling to break free from those chains, despite having grown up and done everything possible to be something other than the label they were given. Like it or not, these judgements fuel our personal perspectives of our siblings and tend to always color how the relationship works. I’ve seen this play out over and over, and over. Love each other, yes. Admit one is God, hardly.
I’m rather confident the same was for James. The Bible says that the family of Jesus were some of the biggest critics of his claims. Understandably so. Can you imagine what circumstances would have had to take place for James, who knew Jesus for a lifetime, to say that his brother is the Messiah? I don’t know about your family, but I can’t begin to imagine what would have transpired to bring my strong willed, capable eldest son into believing that his gentler younger brother is God With Us. Nope. Too much water under that bridge. I can’t even imagine. Be it jealousy, birth order, personality, having known each other their entire lives, but that kind of 180 degree turn where one sibling is pronouncing the other as greater than himself —his LORD—,that would have to have happened by incredible means. It happened to James, and he became a prominent member in the fledgling church because of his faith. And such faith can only come from having battled and won over doubt.
If James can rise above, not only general doubt, but also doubt galvanized by natural sibling rivalry, I wonder what excuse I have for my apparent doubt?
Dear Lord, Thank you for providing wisdom, generously, without fault for those who ask. I pray that you help me increase my faith and patience, and decrease my doubt, as I learn to hold tight to the mooring of your Word, keeping me from being tossed to and fro from the winds of life. Amen.