Pilots flying in a storm or in darkness quickly become disoriented and deceived by their senses. Pilots say that when they are flying without visibility, they can be flying in a tight circle while their senses assure them that they are flying straight ahead. When a pilot becomes disoriented in this way, his body is telling him one thing and his instruments are telling him something completely different. To keep flying safely, he must rely on the instruments in his plane. Those instruments will tell him what is actually and absolutely true.
What we know to be true when we’re in trouble is the instrument panel that provides certainty regardless of how we feel. People who are hurting have often told me, “I know what’s true from the neck up, but somehow it doesn’t make sense in my heart.” We assume that if it only makes sense in our heads, it’s not helpful. But it is.
Part of the process of working through pain is learning to hang on to what we have from the neck up. When our hearts are broken and hurt, there won’t seem to be a pipeline from the brain to the emotions. That’s okay. Just don’t let go of what you know. That’s the key to making it in the midst of difficulty. That’s exactly when God’s Word says, “Consider it pure joy . . . because you know that . . .” (Jas. 1:2-3).
What can we know in the midst of trials? What are the reliable instruments that track us successfully in the midst of difficulty?
In James 1:3-4, the stabilizing truth is that we can know that “the testing of [our] faith produces endurance” and that we should “let endurance have its perfect result, so that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (NASB). James is saying that we can know that pain is a process with a purpose. That specific piece of knowledge will enable us to implement the joy response.
There are at least six mental anchors in Scripture that give stability in the midst of trouble.