over the edge

jumping off of a cliff is not my idea of fun.  whether it is a not-so-high height or the 'Cliffs of Insanity' from Princess Bride, jumping from any elevation brings nothing but a sense of panic and pressure.  for me, simplystanding close to the edge inspires anxiety and alarm, so unless my life depended on it, i'd rather just remain safely on the ground, thank you.  therefore, when i read James 1:2 this past week, the visual that came to mind was of nothing less than a ledge.
James 1:2  "....consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."
wait...what???  trials and joy seem like polar opposites at first glance!  i mean, what could bring less joy into your life than a trial?  right???  when i think of the trials i've encountered over the years i remember the hurt and the pain, the frustration and confusion, the anxiety and the fear that typically accompanied them.  i remember one year in particular, we were going thru a situation that seemed impossible.  our hands were tied.  we couldn't fix the problem...it wasn't like there was a decision that we could easily make and therefore ease the stress of the thing.  we simply had to wait it out.  later, when we could look back on it, i found myself describing my experience as one where i felt like God had led us to the edge...our toes hanging over... our footing unsteady.... but he brought us back just in time.
here in Montana there is a great big lake that we love to take friends and family out on when they come to visit.  we know of a spot on the lake where there are some rocks that are just perfect for jumping off of and into the glacial water...if you're into that sort of thing.  the nice thing about these rocks is that once you climb up out of the water you can choose from what height you'd like to jump.  there is a nice low spot (perfect for you know who) and a crazy high spot for all the dare-devils.  i've taken part in this tomfoolery  a handful of times, each time vowing i will never again engage in such madness.  but i must admit, confess really, that there is a moment ...albeit a fleeting one... whereby i am truly engaged.  that moment when i count to 3 (for the umpteenth time) and i finally fight my fear off long enough to actually force my brain to tell my legs to 'GO'!  i am swept up in the split second between breathing and falling and preparing to hold my breath and i'm thrilled.  then i hit the water and it hurts.  but there was that flash of fun...
did you notice that in James 1:2 he said pure joy?  not just plain joy, but pure joy.  what does that even mean?  i'm still figuring that out, and perhaps i will be working on it all along my life's journey home,  but as of now what i believe it to mean is this:  when we encounter trials and difficulties in our lives, and we most definitely will, we need to look at them as something that God can/will use to grow us into the men and women that he desires for us to be.  (beauty out of the ashes, you know)  that ultimate outcome, as we trust that God has the entirety of our lives perfectly planned and carefully calculated, is our goal.  getting there isn't always easy, but it is worth it.  and that should bring into being JOY!  as much as it might hurt.  as difficult as it might be.  as scary as it might seem.  we can trust in his perfect plan 100%.  do you believe that he knows?  do you believe that he cares?  then we should be able to envision ourselves on a cliff.  standing with toes over the edge, the thrill of what we know will be all at once scary and exhilarating pounding in our hearts.  then throwing ourselves off with reckless abandon, knowing that we'll land in the arms of our father who loves us more than anything.