“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)
Last year, I found myself struggling with a serious bad attitude. I often thought, If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Bah, and humbug, all year long.
Problems abounded in every area of my life. Important relationships fell apart, dreams were crushed, finances tight, deadlines missed and even certain ministry efforts brought disappointment and frustration. My old refrigerator kicked the bucket, and we had multiple minor traffic incidents all within a 3-month time span. When the day came that I didn’t know how much more I could take, God led me to James 1:2.
Can I be honest? The last thing I felt like doing was considering all of my troubles “an opportunity for great joy.” 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 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 — 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.
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 closed my Bible, realizing my attitude was my choice, and knowing whatever circumstances I faced didn’t have the power to dictate that attitude unless I let them.
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.
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.
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. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 4:8b, “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.” (NLT)
Tracie Miles’ new book Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way You Think, Feel and Live, releases April 1. Pre-order your copy by March 31, and you’ll receive five free gifts worth $60! Click here to find out about all the valuable freebies you’ll receive with your pre-order and how to claim them today!
Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement on how to keep your attitude from sinking when life feels overwhelming, and enter to win a hot-off-the-press copy of her new book Unsinkable Faith!
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What’s one negative circumstance causing you to have a bad attitude? Ponder three positive things you can focus on instead, and ask God to help you overcome the tendency to feel negative.
© 2017 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.