Have you ever woken up with the thought, “I wonder why sardines do that?” and then spent four hours on a Saturday watching videos on YouTube, tracking down the latest on sardine research, or wondering about the first people who decided sardines needed to be paired with mustard?
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The river of God’s activity is real. You don’t know it really exists until you are there. And when you are there… you just ride the current and smile.
How do you get there? There’s no formula. Just walk humbly and boldly and it seems to find you more than you find it. Like the wandering Israelites found Kadesh, sometimes it takes some hardship to find it.
He knew that if you’d take walking with Jesus seriously, truly lead people, got past the fluff, and entered into the Christian life, trials would come. A life with Jesus isn’t the absence of trials.
Instead, James says to look at the trials in your life with a twisted little smile. We know how this ends, right? We know that while minute-by-minute life might stink we can look at our tough times from a Kingdom timeline and know we’ll be OK.
James doesn’t tell you to avoid trials. He says to put them in perspective because a trial is nothing but a workout for your perseverance muscle.
I Choose Joy
I’m not trial-less. Like James predicted trials indeed come my way. People who don’t really know me line up to ask, “Are you OK?” And secretly I think they want to see me squirm. They want to know that my faith is wavering because it might somehow give them permission to continue in their wobbly-kneed journey to the throne.
But I choose to take James’ advice. I choose joy. Even when it’s not rational I choose joy. Odds stacked against me? Things aren’t going to go my way? Joy is a choice and not a foregone conclusion.
It comes from inside of me. Joy flies in the face of despair, slaps it, and then gives despair a hug.
I choose joy because Joy chose me.
Sticks-n-Stones Can Kiss My Butt
I spent a lot of Monday licking my wounds from unkind things said to me over the weekend.
Maybe I deserved it? Maybe I’ve offended some people? I can’t know why people make the choice to say something rude/sarcastic/passive-aggressive– then smile and walk away.
I think to myself, “It was good seeing you, too. Thanks for being the mouthpiece of Satan.”
You see, James helps me know that discouragement isn’t from the Lord. (Even if it comes from a fellow believer.) He says that things like this are going to come your way… but you need to choose joy through them because if you pass the test your faith will grow.
When people say nasty things to me (or about me, which is somehow supposed to be better) I am reminded of Genesis 50:20. Joseph said to his wolf-like brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
I’m no Hebrew scholar but I’m pretty sure Jospeh was saying… “You sold me as a slave and told dad I was killed. I should have you killed or just let you starve! I know everything you’ve said about me… kiss my butt. I’m going to bless you despite what you deserve.”
A faith-filled life isn’t the absence of trials. A faith-filled life comes when you are able to choose joy when trials come your way.
For more joy, BRING IT ON!
Here’s the truly twisted thing about this passage from James. Walking with Jesus isn’t about avoiding trials. It isn’t about operating your life in such a way that people don’t have nasty things to say about you or don’t want to take you out.
As I read the Gospels and pastoral epistles I see Jesus imploring us to live a life of boldness. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to be light in dark places. We can’t be that until we pick up our lamp and go into the dark, scary places and change things!
And changing things… walking in darkness to bring light… is going to bring about drama.
Walking with Jesus in joy is telling trials to come on with it– because trials produce joy and faithfulness!
I don’t know what’s going on in your life. But in my life? I’m choosing joy.