Last week was a doozy. In fact, that could probably describe the theme for the whole of 2016, but we’ll stick to last week, here. My husband’s truck decided to die as he backed it into the driveway. A dog that I was responsible for puppy-sitting escaped from me less than two hours after he arrived and promptly made a mad dash out of our quiet neighborhood, down the two lane country road outside, and all the way to the busy highway. You can guess the outcome of that episode. My dishwasher washed its last dish, surprising me with a load of dirty dishes from the night before. After a doctor’s appointment, I was way late for the chemistry class that I teach at our homeschool co-op, leading me to attempt to climb the stairs like the Olympic sprinter that I am NOT, thus tripping and falling UP the stairs and badly breaking my toe. Yet, I am somehow supposed to count it all joy and give thanks.
How do you give thanks when thorns pierce and exhaustion sets in? Can I really be joyful when it seems like everything is going wrong and life seems harder than it should be? The barb stands front and center in my field of vision, and all I can see is the unyielding brown vine punctuated with a cruel point.
At every turn, with forced cheerfulness I announced the most positive thought I could muster. If the truck was going to quit on us, at least it did it in the driveway and not on the road. If I had to give up an appliance, the dishwasher would have been my pick. I can wash dishes in the sink. Clothes, not so much. If I was going to break something, I sure am glad it was just a toe and not my ankle. I’m still working on one for the dog. My usual tactic in those situations is to think of something worse that could have happened and be thankful it didn’t. But are these really what it means to count it all joy?
Maybe we are supposed to be looking for the lovely in our lives by surveying the full picture. If I am counting it ALL joy, shouldn’t I be regarding the whole? The thorns are out there, yes. But they are part of our beautiful existence.
Count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.~ James 1:2-3
Three Steps to Recovery When the World is Pressing Hard
1. Pray hard. It is my first response even if it’s a quickly whispered plea in the midst of chaos. Prayer settles my soul as I pause to breathe and remove myself from the immediate drama of my circumstances. Remembering that it’s not ultimately up to me, that I do not have control over my circumstances but that I do have a say in how I am going to respond is calming. Ephesians 6:18 says, “… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
2. Keep it in perspective. Recognize that our lives are made of many seasons. Some are filled with joyful occasions, like the birth of a child, or the beginning of a new career. Other times we struggle to adjust to changes or to balance the budget. When we allow a myopic view of our problems to dominate every day, we fail to see anything else. If we lie on our bellies and follow the ant’s movements across our red checked blanket, we miss the fried chicken and friends. He’s only a problem if we don’t flick him away. Sure, he may return. He may even bring an army with him. But if the ant is the most memorable part of your day at the park, maybe you need to change your outlook.
3.. Persevere. Years ago, we moved to this house into a world of trouble. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, you can somewhat relate to the comedic circumstances of that decision. Clearly, it worked out because we are still here. In the midst of trials that included a range of delights- from discovering that the septic tank appeared to have never been pumped since the dawn of time to the fact that the previous owners had been creative geniuses with “repairing” holes in the walls by filling them with wads of newspaper covered with Laura Ashley wallpaper, I was over it. The day our church newsletter arrived in the mail, I immediately clipped the memory verses and slipped it under the edge of a refrigerator magnet. The yellowing slip of paper continues to remind me of an important truth in any situation. Most importantly, it is a symbol that God hears and responds to me, even when He chooses to allow circumstances to remain.