Just last Sunday, our pastor reminded us that "faith is like a muscle: we have to use it to make it stronger." I've heard this all my life, but it really hadn't hit home until now, when this right arm is as weak as water and shakes like a limb in the wind when I try to raise it past a certain point. It was much easier with a sling and knock-me-out pain pills. No one expected anything of me.
However, like my physical therapy sessions, a growing faith requires stretching followed by strengthening. God stretches us in as many ways as there are people. Look at the stretching exercise James hints at in the following verses:
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' James 4:13-15
Not knowing what will happen is a daily stretch of our faith. James reminds us that no matter how much concrete or stone we use to set our plans, God has a sledge hammer. God sends us (or keeps us) where He needs us for His greater glory, for the good of those we'll come to know, and for our own good.
Once He stretches us, we find we're weak in our new circumstances and we have only Him to trust. We'll wish for easier, more comfortable times when we were sure of ourselves and knew what we were doing - before God stretched us. This is the point when strengthening and stamina begin. God doesn't leave us shaking like leaves but calls us to rest in His goodness. He responds by building our stamina as we depend totally on Him. Faith doesn't require us to be strong. Faith means actively depending on His unending and immeasurable strength.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.