A Word of Hope
Standing Strong in God Through Challenging Circumstances – Choosing Joy
PART 4 IN A SERIES by Lisa Hall, International prayer coordinator
I love to do challenging things – it’s in my DNA. I thrive on situations that push me to the limit physically and mentally: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, skydiving, challenging ropes courses, camping and bouldering, canoeing and portaging. Life is full of challenging circumstances and obstacles that will either make us stronger or defeat us. But I have learned some lessons the hard way – no matter what the challenge is, we need to prepare ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually to overcome obstacles, avoid injury and come out victorious.
I am amazed at how interwoven God has created our bodies’ systems. All it takes is a poor diet, insufficient sleep, not managing stress levels or not practicing soul care to throw all of our other systems off-course. Failing in these areas can make us physically ill, throw our emotions out of control or give us a negative mental outlook. Our relationship with God can also be affected. These basic elements of self-care are the solid foundation on which we build our lives so that when trouble comes, we can stand strong.
As we look at the difficult things in our lives, one thing becomes obvious: We can’t control a lot of the factors – other people, our circumstances, global events, government actions. One thing we can control, however, is our attitude.
In James 1:2-4 we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The Greek word translated as “consider” means to think of, not to feel. So this is a command that calls us to change our attitude, not our emotions. If James, the writer of this letter, had been ruled by his emotions, he wouldn’t have been able to stay strong through persecution and eventual martyrdom. He likely still felt fear, but he trusted God’s plan and chose joy in faith. He urges us to do the same. When we choose joy in the face of bitterness, self-pity or other negative emotions, God will do a work in our lives and build endurance in us that leads to maturity and Christlikeness.
God gives us grace for each day. When we continually call out for God’s strength, wisdom and grace, he reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). It is so important to carve out time daily for an intimate relationship with our Father, walking in step with him and with our eyes on him to receive the grace we need.
The hope we need to keep us going comes from knowing that the God whom we serve is good and all-powerful – a God who works everything out in the end for our good (Rom. 8:28-29). That good may not be comfortable, but it will mature our souls, build our character and help us see our difficulties through God’s eternal perspective. Can I encourage you today to join me in yielding our bodies, minds and spirits to our loving Father? With God’s help, we can choose joy as we walk with him through the trials of our lives.