...the adversary can do nothing at all against property or people outside God's permission; but often, as I have said, in the same service the enemy's depraved will is fed on its own account and God's good will by the dispensation of punishment or fruitful testing.
- Anonymous, Liber de Ordine Creaturarum (Irish, 7th century)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
- James 1.2
Doubtless we would all prefer our Christian lives to be free of trials. Hardships, loss, illness, setback, disappointments of various kinds, even persecution - all these we would prefer not to have to endure.
But that is not God's plan for us. Not that He brings these upon us; however, He does allow them from time to time. They are the work of the enemy of our soul who seeks by every means to overthrow our faith, lead us to doubt and despair, and keep us from being fruitful in the Kingdom of God.
Yet even the devil is subject to God's power, and he can do nothing but what God permits; and whatever God permits him to do, He is quite able to use for good in our lives.
Everything depends on how we respond to trials. Do we cringe and cower? Become critical and complaining? Do we draw back from seeking the Kingdom and hunker down to "ride it out"?
Or do we rejoice, give thanks, and wait on the Lord to bring us through our trials unto steadfastness, sanctification, and fruitfulness? This is what James commands. Such a response requires an act of obedient faith - resisting our natural human tendencies when trials befall us and, instead, casting our eyes to heaven, contemplating the beauty of our exalted King, and rejoicing and giving thanks because He knows what He's doing, He does all things well, and He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
"God's good will is served," our scholar declared in faith, even by the devil who seeks to destroy us. For all his wrath and all his machinations and all his persistence, the devil cannot stand up, but must ever flee in fright and rage, from the simple utterance of four common words:
"Thanks be to God!"