Counting it all Joy: Pt. 1
If you've ever wondered why I sign all of my emails, church newsletter articles and letters with the words, "Counting it all Joy," I'll give you an explanation... in three parts over the next three days!
This little tagline comes from the book of James. Here it is in context:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4)
I use those four words every day to remind myself that I am speaking my way into believing them. Because to rejoice when you are going through tough moments is not intuitive to most of us, and here's why:
In ancient Judaism the rabbis struggled to explain why human beings could contain both the capacity for great evil in addition to great good. They developed the idea of the Yetser Hatob and the Yetser Hara.
Basically it goes like this, God created evil (Yetser Hara) as well as good (Yetser Hatob) within human beings and then gave them the Law to guide them to the good.
This idea stemmed from their understanding of a sovereign and all-powerful God who must have created those evil impulses within us all---but then in an act of love and grace gave the Hebrew people the rules and regulations to live by so that they could be an example of what it looks like when people choose good over evil, life over death.
It's a compelling concept. So compelling, in fact, that it seems to have pervaded the very way we have come to understand God, good and evil--and even the bad things that happen to us in our own lives.
The logical end of this argument is helplessness and hopelessness. It's why people will excuse their poor behavior with words like "It's just how I am... it's my nature... it's how I am wired..."
And when we start excusing our bad behavior, and our poor reactions to trials and tribulations by saying it's just how we are---it becomes even easier to then begin blaming God himself for our trials and tribulations.
In other words, you might find yourself struggling to have faith in the middle of a bad time in your life and instead of saying, "God--it's not you, it's me." we find ourselves saying, "God--it's not me, it's you."
Today, practice turning this notion around when you are struggling through a difficult moment---when you are tempted to lose your temper, your patience or your testimony because things aren't going your way.
Instead of giving in to the temptation to wonder if God is taking out his anger on you, simply pray, "God, lead me to the joy of your presence in the middle of this." This simple prayer will help you refocus and stay connected to the Divine.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.