Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2)
Lately, I’ve found myself struggling with a serious bad attitude. For a long time, I often thought, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…”
Problems abounded in every area of my life. Important relationships fell apart, dreams were crushed, finances tight, deadlines missed and even certain other marvelous happenings that would have changed my life were missed ….
And my children have me blocked, I was served an unjustifiable eviction, threatened and intimidated by my landlord, lived for days with no running water, had to make my way to the hospital 3 days in a row all alone on multiple buses, and just had surgery yesterday and made it home alone only to lay there angry last night while my attitude soured because no one even remembered to call or check on me ….
People are fickle, and definately can disappoint us. And it’s these monumental moments that I read the bible and sometimes just have to shake my head — “what’s that ? Rejoice always, you say?”
I had multiple major incidents all within a 5-day time span, not to mention the procession of pressures and disappointments from months previous. And when this day broke and I didn’t know how much more I could take, God has lead me to this verse this morning …” when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2)
Can I be honest? The last thing I felt like doing today was considering all of my troubles “an opportunity for great joy.” I am in pain, and feel like a bear not a lamb; and I couldn’t help but wonder: Seriously, God? How is that even really possible? But instead of closing my Bible in frustration, I sensed God nudging me to take a deep breath and keep reading. Little did I know He had beautiful encouragement in store just when I needed it the most …..
If we read this verse as a stand-alone suggestion, it seems impossible to realistically put into practice. Yet, if we read the context behind it in Scripture, it takes on an entirely new perspective and begins to seem — with God’s help — even doable ….
James wrote today’s key verse during a time where the Christians had allowed the frustrations and annoyances of life to steal their optimism and joy. But in their defense, these believers had a lot of serious and justifiable reasons to have a bad attitude; but honestly, don’t we all feel just a wee bit justified when we’re sporting negative tude? ….
They faced great persecution, unrelenting trials and sufferings — from murder to imprisonment — at the hand of Saul, who was zealous in his efforts to destroy the church and anyone associated with Jesus. As a result, these Christians were juggling an array of emotions, including fear, mourning, confusion, loneliness and even hopelessness ….
Some fled their homes in fear for their lives. They lived in poverty, forced to scrounge for food to survive. Some were sick, and everyone was exhausted. They had every right to be negative and pessimistic. I can only imagine as they sunk under the weight of seemingly insurmountable problems and fears, that their faith might have been sinking, too.
James acknowledged their suffering but also wanted to give them hope and encouragement. He told them inner joy could still be theirs, if they deliberately chose to take control of their thinking and change their attitude. He encouraged them to pause and refocus on their faith …..
When life gets hard, it’s difficult to avoid letting a bad attitude take over our minds and rule our lives. We might not experience religious persecution as those first believers did, but let’s face it: People hurt us, the past haunts us, coworkers mistreat us, parents don’t love us, friends don’t consider us, spouses don’t honor us, children don’t appreciate or respect us, finances don’t support us, and our health doesn’t sustain us. James’ instructions to the believers of his time can help us too, I dare say …
I closed my Bible, realizing my attitude was my choice, and knowing whatever circumstances I faced or ever had to endure didn’t have the power to dictate that attitude unless I let them. I can still choose an attitude of gratitude …
Just because friends forget us or disappoint us, maybe our church has abandoned us, maybe we are facing the most unimaginable struggles ahead, we can remember that there are always others facing deeper and devastating struggles we have no concept of whatsoever. And we can smile in knowing we know the Ultimate Authority on problem solving.
Although enduring problems with a smile and pure joy in our hearts can be difficult, doing so not only helps us become stronger believers, it opens the door for an attitude transformation, and it can be instrumental in building another’s shaky faith …..
Our attitudes are an outward display of what’s taking place in our hearts. When our hearts focus in the right place, our attitudes will, too. The only thing we have to lose by choosing a positive attitude is a negative one ….
Therefore skip the weeds — pick flowers instead. When I feel myself just “wrong” — rather than deny how I feel and speak a bunch of useless words that will only defile myself and hinder others, I go find my corner and pour my injustices at my Savior’s feet. And my tears begin to fall, I feel them disolve away the chains holding me hostage, and as they fall usually so does my bad attitude to be replaced by joy and humility; and with this God can begin to work …
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8).
All good things come from God. He loves us unconditionally. God will never leave us, betray us, or forsake us. He blesses us and provides for all of our needs. God does a million little things for each and every one of us every single day that we never even realize, besides caring for us, protecting us, and finding things of beauty to place in our path just to see us smile ….
The list goes on and on. Despite all of our trials, struggles, and disappointments in life, God is still always good and ever faithful. So can you not muster up just a little joy today? Look up, look around, you might just be passing it right by ….
Lord, free me from the shackles of a bad attitude. Work in my heart and mind to transform my thinking from negative to positive — despite the struggles I face. Fill me with a joy that can only come from You. And help me to always be mindful that no matter who remembers me, blocks me, betrays me, or just simply lets me down – You my Lord are always with me and will never forsake me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen ….