March 18, 2019
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." James 1:2 (NLT)
A couple years ago, I found myself struggling with a serious case of a bad attitude. In fact, I adopted the saying, "If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all." Bah humbug, all year long.
Problems abounded in every area of my life. Important relationships had fallen apart, dreams were crushed, finances were tight, I missed deadlines, and even ministry efforts brought me disappointment and frustration. A broken refrigerator and multiple minor car accidents seemed to plague my family. The day came when I honestly didn't know how much more I could take. That's when God led me to today's key verse, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy" (James 1:2).
The last thing I felt like doing was considering all of my troubles "an opportunity for great joy."
Seriously, God? How is that even possible?
But instead of rolling my eyes and closing my Bible in frustration, I felt a stirring in my spirit to take a deep breath and keep reading. God had beautiful encouragement in store, just when I needed it most.
By itself, this verse seems impossible to put into practice. Yet if we read it in context, it takes on an entirely new perspective and seems a little less unrealistic.
The Christians of James' time allowed life's frustrations and annoyances to steal their optimism and joy. But in their defense, these believers had serious and justifiable reasons to have a bad attitude and feel consumed with negative thoughts.
They'd been greatly persecuted, facing endless trials and sufferings. They experienced difficult injustices, from murder to imprisonment, from Saul, an unrelenting zealot who sought to destroy the church and anyone associated with Christianity. As a result, these Christians juggled an array of emotions - fear, mourning, confusion, loneliness and even hopelessness.
Some fled their homes in fear of their lives, causing them to live in poverty and scrounge for every meal and penny. Some were sick, and everyone was exhausted. They had every right to be negative and pessimistic. I can only imagine they felt as if they were sinking under the weight of seemingly insurmountable problems and fears, and that their faith might have begun sinking, too.
James gently acknowledged their suffering but wanted to give them hope and encouragement. He wanted them to know that inner joy and optimism could still be theirs, despite their adversities, if they deliberately chose to take control of their thoughts and change their attitudes. He invited them to pause and refocus on their faith, even though life was tough.
We may not experience religious persecution as the early Jewish believers did, but let's face it: Life can often make us feel persecuted.
People hurt us, the past haunts us, co-workers mistreat us, parents don't love us, friends don't consider us, spouses leave us, children don't appreciate or respect us, finances fail us, and our health doesn't sustain us. And when life gets hard, it's difficult to avoid letting our negative thoughts result in a serious case of bad attitude. An attitude which robs us of joy and peace.
Just as James instructed the early church to intentionally choose to fight for joy and optimism, we too need to seek God's help in making the courageous choice to be optimistic in the face of trials by learning to control our thoughts.
After reading this passage that memorable day, I realized my attitude is a choice. What and how I allow myself to think is my choice. Our trying circumstances don't have the power to dictate our attitudes - unless we let them.
Although it might be difficult to endure problems with a smile on our face and pure joy in our heart that can come only from faith, doing so not only makes us stronger believers, but opens the door for true attitude transformation.
Our attitudes are an outward display of what is taking up residence in our hearts and minds. If our hearts and thoughts are in the right place, our attitudes will be, too. The only thing we have to lose by intentionally choosing to have a positive attitude is a negative attitude.
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)
Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NIV)
For true encouragement on learning to capture and control your thoughts so you can transform your attitude, purchase Tracie Miles' popular book, Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way You Think, Feel and Live.
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Visit Tracie's blog for more inspiration to keep your attitude from sinking when life feels overwhelming.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What negative circumstances in your life are causing you to have a bad attitude? If you can't change what happened, how can you change your thoughts about the situation?
Ponder three positive things you can focus on about your circumstances, and ask God to help you overcome the tendency to feel negative. Let us know your ideas in the comments!
© 2019 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.