When I first accepted Jesus into my heart, I experienced a supernatural peace that defied all logic or understanding. It went to the very core of my being and I knew that there was a God who loved me and that my sins and guilt were washed clean.
I was 17 years old at the time and I started going to church weekly, reading my bible all the time, and was constantly amazed that God, the creator of the universe, would want to make my heart his home! As I studied the Bible with great excitement, I became a diligent student of Martin Luther and was a firm believer that my faith in God alone was enough. This caused me to think James’ message of faith and deeds didn’t really apply to me, at least that is, until life’s trials came along.
A few years later and newly married, I was surprised to find how hard it was for me to love someone right in front of me! Suddenly, I was irritated and impatient with my husband when we didn’t agree. And I wasn’t very kind about it. I would get mad at him when I didn’t get my way, and wanted him to change to suit me. I reminded him of his shortcomings to feel better about myself and wanted to blame him for the tension between us. As God revealed this to me, I was shocked at how selfish I was! This was not who I wanted to be! I discovered that even with faith in God, my attitude was still sinful by the way I was treating my husband. James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” The longer I ignored my selfishness, the more angry I was at my inability to love him and disturbed that it was so much work in the first place.
The irony here is that even though I lacked in love, I still expected to be loved, becoming judgmental, which caused even more arguments. I was a classic example of James 4:1-2, “What causes quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?...You cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” Because of this, I became discouraged often and even thought divorce would be a better option for us than trying and failing at something we were not good at. The words in James 1:22, convicted and pierced my heart, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I knew God loved me because he laid down his life. I also knew he wanted me to love my husband with that same kind of sacrificial love, so I asked him to teach me. In his faithfulness, he sent people throughout my life to show me what his love looked like. People like my step-father, who opened his home to me, allowing me to see that his actions gave substance to what he believed. My mother, whose unwavering trust in God and his word, sparked courage in me to stand up for what I believe and to do hard things. Then there was Dora, a longtime mentor who taught me how to be gracious by always speaking of others better than we deserved. And Amy, who showed me incredible patience over the years as she taught me the same biblical principles over and over until I finally learned to put them into practice in my own life.
I’ve seen firsthand faith come alive by how others have loved me and my family. It changed me.
It’s been 30 years now since Lyle and I married and I’m happy to say that with God’s help and some perseverance, our faith has grown and we enjoy one another. Reading James once again has reminded me that because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, I am still growing in faith (James 5:11). I’ve learned what James was trying to say all along—that to have faith, means to love. Without love, our faith can be empty words, hollow and meaningless to the one who doesn’t learn to act on them. When we determine to love others the way God loves us, it is the greatest witness of faith anyone can ever see of God himself, and that is good news!