I have been reflecting on James 1:2-4 it reads:

“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 in nothing.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭(ESV)‬‬

I think to understand what James meant, it might be helpful to begin with what he was not saying. He is not saying that we should rejoice in our suffering, trials and adversity in itself as if it were a good thing. If you have lost a loved one, lost a job, relationships have failed or your plans have not succeeded that you should count it all as joy and rejoice in those experiences.

What he is saying is that we rejoice in the fact that God in his  love and power and governance of all things, is able to use the trials and adversity we experience for our good. What counts as our good is not simply better life circumstances, a point that James makes very clear.  Our good is the total, radical and absolute transformation of our character and personality into mature, righteous, virtuous and joy filled human beings. It is nothing less than the metamorphosis of our heart and will to be like that of Christ. Only then will we be complete, perfect and lacking in nothing because we will be as God intended and created us to be.

The other side of this coin is that we were made to love and be loved by God; only when we are in perfect union and friendship with God are we able to find the joy and happiness we were created to find in God alone. However, if our hearts are not properly orientated and directed towards God we obviously then cannot love him and delight in his beauty and goodness, and we cannot receive his love, the very thing which we made to filled by.

Therefore grace comes along to help order our loves and affections so that they are calibrated and directed towards God above all else – this is the heart of what spiritual formation or character transformation or conforming to Christ is. To still put it differently then:

Spiritual formation is the process by which God through his grace enlarges our capacity to be intimate with him. The degree to which we know and are intimate with God, is the degree to which we will experience absolute unblemished happiness.

Friendship with God requires us to be persons of a particular heart and character. We need to be people whose affections have been reorientated to delight in what is truly good, pure, majestic, holy and beautiful; only then will we be complete and perfect and lacking in nothing for we will have everything we made for.