Swallowed up.

When I think of that, I have several images come to mind. One is the moment in the original Star Wars movie where Han Solo is trying to evade Federation troops and parks the Millennium Falcon in a crater thinking it is a cave but is really the mouth of a monster.

The next image that comes to mind is scared Jonah sloshing around in the sea when he is suddenly swallowed by a whale.

The last image that I have is of food.

When you eat food, hopefully you place it in your mouth and chew it. The action of chewing breaks the food down into smaller bites. But the saliva in our mouths perform a very important function. As part of the initial process of food digestion, the enzymes in the saliva break down some of the starch and fat in the food at the molecular level. Saliva also breaks down food caught in the teeth, protecting them from bacteria that cause decay.

James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the New Testament book bearing his name, tells us that we should consider it a wonderful joy when we “encounter” various kinds of trials. The background for this word carries the idea of being “swallowed up.” Various kinds of trials will swallow us up.

Trials will engulf us. Life will seem dark. It will seem as though we are dead. We will feel like we have walked through the valley of death. But that valley is only a shadow, not the real thing.

But like the saliva in our mouths, the darkness of the our encounter is there to break down our brokenness, sinfulness, and fear so that we are whole and complete (James 1:4).

When we are expelled from the encounter like Jonah, or Job, or David, we find ourselves different. Changed.

The walk through the valley of the shadow of death did not kill us. But it may break us. Yet God is still with us.

Life is hard. The World is cold. Trials are difficult.

But every fallen tear is always understood.

Life is hard.

God is Good.

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