Consider it pure joy…Sharon Archer is one of those people who exemplifies this encouragement from James 1:2 no matter what it is. One would never know from talking to her on any given day that she has had her share of trials and heartaches like the rest of us. Even when she is in the midst of some really tough seasons, Sharon radiates infectious joy.
We often associate joy as an expression of things going well in our lives, but the first chapter of the book of James goes on to say, “Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” What does this even mean, and why would we want to consider the things that burden us as pure joy? We sat down with Sharon to talk about how the principles of this passage of Scripture have been instrumental in her life.
Sharon has faced many trials her lifetime. She has battled cancer twice. Her son was kidnapped while in a foreign country. People she loves have strayed away from God’s path, and she has watched them as they struggled with the ramifications of their choices. And most recently, she experienced the sudden loss of her husband to pancreatic cancer.
Sharon was married to Ventura Missionary’s beloved Pastor Gary Archer for 58 years before he graduated to heaven in 2019. They raised three sons and served the Lord throughout their marriage. Music was woven into much of their lives and their ministry. Sharon has sung in a wide variety of ways and places all over the world, even singing at Gary’s memorial service. In the middle of her tremendous loss, she beautifully declared the truth of Jesus, deeply inspiring those in attendance. After she sang, she was joined by her sons, grandchildren, and other family members as they triumphantly sang Andrae Crouch’s lyrics, “Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust God.”
Sharon says one of the things she misses most about Gary is their time together every morning. First, they would each read God’s Word and pray individually. Then, they would come together and talk about their fellowship with Jesus. It was such an enriching way to start the day. She still has that time with the Lord, but the extra interaction with Gary is no longer possible.
Sharon doesn’t just connect with her Savior first thing in the morning and then put Him on a shelf while going about her business. She describes an ongoing conversation with the Lord throughout each day. She is currently reading “How to Pray” by Pete Grieg, founder of 24-7 Prayer, and she says the book eloquently describes her own experience. Prayer for her is “a lifestyle.” As she looks out on the fields near her home and sees people who God loves working so hard, she prays for them. When she hears a siren, she prays for those who are impacted by whatever has caused their emergency. She also is ready to respond as God guides her. He is her constant companion.
One of the things Sharon learned during her first bout with cancer is that bad things happen to all of us. We’re in this world, and it’s not worth the energy to wonder why we’re going through a particular trial. She says, “God is in control, and He uses each experience to draw us closer to Him. He has His divine plan. And, our struggles help us to minister to other people. How can we empathize if we don’t understand?”
Sharon says it’s so important to know Scripture. Drawing from the hours she waited, not knowing if or when her son would be released by his kidnappers, Sharon says, “When you have God’s truth in you, His peace just comes upon you when you need it.”
Sharon lights up when she shares what she is currently learning about faith. During this COVID 19 season, she continues to be in Zoom groups, to read, and to watch biblical content. She says, “God’s Word is like spiritual food. I can’t get enough!” She of course doesn’t enjoy some of the realities that exist because of the virus, but says that this current reality has also allowed her to slow down so that she can spend meaningful time with her sister who is now living with her. She says, “I’m at peace and am not fearful. I have so much confidence in the Lord and His care. He is my Heavenly Father, my Daddy. I’m amazed that the God of the Universe allows me to connect with Him so personally.”
When spending time with Sharon, subsequent verses in James 1 begin to make sense. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Sharon chooses pure joy through the ups and downs of life, and God uses that choice to equip her to persevere with grace and shine with a spiritual maturity and completeness. As another passage of Scripture describes, the Lord is her shepherd, and because of that, she lacks nothing (Psalm 23:1). She has all that she needs for her journey on earth. Like a circle that doesn’t end, joy encompasses every step of the way!