When we think of the word “trial”, we often think of a very specific type of circumstance. One that is hard, that we don’t like. Something negative we have to overcome. But James says all circumstances are trials.
These verses reference both the trial of want and of plenty. We are familiar with the trial of want. The struggles with feeling like something is missing. The pain of loss; even the malaise of the mundane. When in the valley or on the plain, it is important to realize the perspective that “This is an exalted opportunity” to be faithful and depend on God. To endure and win the crown of life.
The mountaintops of life are traditionally viewed more as a triumph. We think winning at life is ascending the mountains. But winning is about who we are not where we are. And mountaintops have dangers of their own, a kind of trial to endure. On the mountaintop, we have to choose to adopt a different perspective. “This is only fleeting. It won’t last. Enjoy, but don’t depend on this. Depend on God.” This is difficult. Our senses tell us we are winning. We must have the eyes of faith to believe “This is fleeting, do not trust it.” If we make an idol of prosperous circumstances, we have lost our way just as effectively as if we cower under difficult circumstances.
All circumstances are trials. Tests. Championship games. Olympic trials. The valley, the plain and the mountaintop. Each has their struggle. And each is an opportunity to win gold. Life is not about avoiding one trial for the sake of the other. It is about navigating all trials through a Godly perspective.