Some of my friends describe the problems they face as “Cadillac” problems.
They know that the problems of ‘normies,” people who live a normal life are far less than incarceration, homelessness, addiction, and violence.
As they now live a normal life, they describe the minor irritations of life as “Cadillac” problems.
Many people who read the opening words of James live a normal life and mostly experience “Cadillac” problems. For others, the council of James is a serious challenge.
What is the Dispersion?
James identified himself and named his audience in the opening verses of his letter.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion: Greetings” (James 1.1).
James was Jesus’ brother and the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Who were the “twelve tribes in the dispersion”?
The “dispersion” or “diaspora” referred to the many times when God’s people were driven from their homes to become refugees in foreign countries.
Persecution and a famine in Jerusalem scattered followers of Jesus to neighboring regions. They left homes and possessions with only what they could quickly transport to safety.
Here are the top countries that have a dispersion of their citizens. These are people who have lost their homes, and jobs, and moved for safety purposes to other nations.
— Ukraine – The UN has called the Ukraine refugee crisis “the fastest and largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II.” 4.8 million people have left the country and 7.1 million have relocated to safer locations within the nation.
— Syria – The war in Syria has produced nearly 7 million refugees.
— Venezuela – Corruption and extreme poverty has caused almost 4 million people to leave.
— Afghanistan – 2.6 million people have left to find relative safety in Pakistan.
The United Nations cites a mind-numbing number of refugee situations that are not “Cadillac” problems.
“The highest number ever recorded, this total included 26.6 million international refugees living in a nation other than their country of birth, 48 million individuals displaced in their own country, and 4.4 million people seeking asylum in a new country (as well as several million niche cases, such as stateless individuals).
“Half of today’s refugees are children.”
But I’m not a refugee.
Most of the people who read this blog have what I’ve been calling “Cadillac” problems. For the most part, we live normal lives and have normal problems.
Why did I bring up the subject of refugees? Because the next words in James’ letter were addressed to refugees who had been displaced from their homes, jobs, and country.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face various trials, consider it all joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing (James 1.2-4).
Whether you have been displaced from your country, suffered the loss of a loved one, or are experiencing some other deep pain, the words of James are a challenge.
How can you consider it all joy in the face of serious troubles, even “Cadillac” problems?
Suffering is the “holy ground” of humanity and we need to challenge ourselves to see the validity of James’ message.
The Problem of Pain
During college, I worked with a man who was one of the most depressing people I have ever met.
My parents knew him and I asked them what was his story. They told me that his only child died in a swimming accident and he never got over the loss.
With all due respect and compassion, what would have happened if this man had challenged himself to win a victory over depression? Would he have eventually found a measure of comfort and relief?
James counsels the suffering to not give up. As they endure, they may experience the truth of the Psalm writer.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30.5)
God is at work.
I heard Richard Foster speak several years ago. I remember what he said about suffering and pain.
He said something like this, “God is working something in us during the cross experiences of life that he can only accomplish through the pain.”
Foster is in line with James. When we remain under the load of suffering, God is able to move us toward maturity, completion, and wholeness.
I don’t know anybody who wants to be homeless, but I have met formerly homeless people who have an understanding of life that I envy.
The same can be said for the incarcerated. Some of my best friends found sobriety and Jesus in the solitude of a prison cell.
There are Christian aid workers who suffer alongside refugees that humble me with their devotion to Christ and his love for others.
Whether we have “Cadillac” problems or bone-crushing tragedies, we will do well to challenge ourselves with the message of James.
Rudy Ross and I talk about the Book of James on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
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