The thing about pearls

After a long period of peace, my rheumatoid arthritis was flaring good this weekend. It’s easy to take little movements—simple things—for granted, until those little movements and simple joints cause pain. 

It’s not the pain of a sprain or an injury, one that bears hope of improvement in time. It’s not the type of pain rest or immobilization eases. No amount of pain is easy to deal with, but the pain stemming from an autoimmune disease is different because there is not a sure promise of it ending. It is a hope-stealing villain.

It whispers nasty little lies at every action you take, every movement hissing

You’re weak. Useless. Incapable. It won’t get better.

The thing about pearls

I’m usually an optimist and love to find something to laugh at in everything . . . but to be honest, this is a challenge. When the aches and pains begin and the waves increase it’s hard to stay positive because you don’t know how long this round will last, or how much more painful it will get. 

That speaks to so many trials in life, doesn’t it? When the waves roll in and the storm begins, you don't know how long this one is going to last . . . or how much more painful it will get before it's done.

But the Lord is always gracious and where lies whisper, His truth can and does abound. 

I love pearls—there is just something special about them to me. The depth, the lustre, the weight of their beauty speaks to me. 

Pearls of course find their birth in an invasion, generally a parasite or irritant. Something the oyster did not ask for, or likely want. I can so identify with that. Yet, the very beginning of what we call beautiful and valuable is something that should not be

In this broken world, we are all affected by something that should not be. Various trials and difficulties we all bear. Things that steal our hope and crush us with their lies, burdens, pain . . . and our hearts ache because deep down we know it wasn’t supposed to be like this. 

All of creation groans with us in the knowledge that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But the oyster has a special gifting. It receives that invasion—the irritation of that which should not be—and does what it is able to do. It begins to cover the irritation, to surround it in nacre. Thus, it protects itself and in time offers the world something of beautiful value.

Its irritation—its trial—becomes something we treasure around the world. 

I feel the weight of invasion, of irritation, of that which should not be today. But to its lies of hopelessness, I have to counter that with truth because the God who made the oyster with that wondrous ability to turn trial in to beauty causes all things to work together for good. 

And somewhere, at sometime, I know very well that He can cause this trial to become something of beauty—of value—as well. 

Earlier this year I did a study through the book of James. One particular verse spoke to me the most, but it is also one that I’ve always found rather perplexing:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
— James 1:2-4

I don’t know about you, but my reaction to considering trials joy looks a bit like 😬. Try as I may, it's really hard to get excited—or to feel joyful—about trials. Can you identify?

But then I dug deeper in to the meanings of the words within that verse. According to Meriam-Webster:

Joy is defined as: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”. 

Persevere is “to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement”.

Steadfast means “firmly fixed in place”.

Perfect means "being entirely without fault or defect, faithfully reproducing the original".

Faithfully reproducing the original. That stopped me in my tracks. Our original is Christ, and these trials—these things that should not be—draw us in to Him and mold us to a form that faithfully reproduces Him. There is beauty in that. 

One of the exercises in the study was to use those definitions to write James 1:2-4 in your own words, I wrote down:

“Consider is very well with you, my brothers, when you experience various trials because you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness—firmly fixing you in place. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may faithfully reproduce Christ full and completely, lacking nothing."

And that is what pearls remind me of when the storms of that which should not be come. As the storms of life batter, I do have joy because I know it is very well with me. These storms? Far from hopeless, they provide the context and the hope of possessing what I desire, to faithfully reproduce the Original.

And He created the ability to turn that which should not be in to a beautiful pearl--somewhere, He's gonna make this something beautiful too. As the trial and storms hit, pearls remind me to yield my heart to Him, layer by layer . . . He's working together something beautiful in me, and in you my friend.