It’s not easy to trust God and to maintain our conviction that He loves us and has our best interest foremost in mind when we are suffering. We need help to do that. James invites us to ask God for the wisdom we need to manage life’s pains with faith. He reminds us that God is always ready to help us with those struggles, but he also advises the person who needs help not to doubt God’s good intentions toward him. James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

James uses one Greek word to refer to both trials and temptations. Both of these ideas tend to draw a believer away from trusting in God’s love and good intentions for them. A trial is when we lose something that we have. Job’s hardships were trials. He lost his possessions, his family, and his health. Trials make us ask God, “Why me, Lord?” It was a temptation when Adam and Eve were presented with the apple. They were encouraged to believe that God wanted to keep something good from them. When God tells us no, we are tempted to doubt God’s good intentions toward us. When God allows something that we have to be taken from us, we are tempted to doubt God’s good intentions toward us. The Greek word is the same word James uses for a trial and a temptation. As James advises, we should pray that God will give us the wisdom to understand trials and temptations for what they are. When James speaks to us about not doubting God, he’s speaking about trusting God through trials and temptations. No matter what we are going through, we must never doubt that God loves and cares for us. Holloway says, “To doubt that God will hear their requests for wisdom is to doubt his generosity and character. Such a doubter is like a wave blown by the wind, a common metaphor in ancient literature for indecision.”[1]

When James says we should have faith when we pray, he is not instructing us to have faith in having our prayer answered as we would like. He’s telling us to have faith or to trust in the one to whom we are praying. Faith is always the same. No matter how hard the wind blows, it is never wavering regarding God’s love and good intentions toward us. We are called to believe in God, not in getting the right answer to our prayer. Besides, we often don’t see what God has in mind for us in the end. Only God is omniscient. Mullins writes, “We often see only part of the picture in our own lives and are unable to see the end of the matter. We have all prayed fervently, with deep faith, for some dear one to be cured from a deadly disease, only to see them waste away and pass. We have prayed to be delivered from a personal crisis and then the burden only grows heavier. The sickness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus teaches us that God may be at work on a better thing than what we want Him to do. It teaches us God has His reasons for saying no, and his reasons are good.”[2] Faith is not believing that God exists. James is going to tell us that even the demons believe that. Faith is trusting God always to be positively disposed toward us through the trials and temptations of life. This kind of faith will be like an anchor to keep us firmly grounded through the storms of life. Isaiah 26:3 teaches us, “You (God) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

[1] Holloway, Gary. 1996. James & Jude. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub.

[2] Mullins, Philip. 1997. “Unanswered Prayer.” Edited by Paul Earnhart. Christianity Magazine, 1997.