Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like this? “10% of life is your circumstances, and 90% is how you respond to them.” I’m not sure where those figures came from or necessarily how accurate the percentages are, but there’s something to it, isn’t there? This idea that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it is life-changing, really. Even if the figures were closer to 70/30, it’s still mind-blowing, is it not?
However, how often do we fall prey to the victim mentality and live life singing a “woe is me” tune? Hear me out on this one. I am in no way seeking to minimize the struggle that any one of you is going through. I’m only trying to add perspective, and a biblical one at that. So, go with me, if you will.
If James 1:2-3 is true, then we can KNOW that joy is possible amidst hardship. It’s not a hope or a fairytale. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s truth and can be our reality. Circumstances don’t need to rob us of our joy. In fact, they don’t have the power to. Every time we lose our joy, it is because we willingly forfeit it. We freely give it up in exchange for worry, fear, anger, frustration, bitterness, anxiety. We let go of one to hold onto the other. It’s a choice.
“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.”
If these words are true, it changes everything. It should, anyway. It should change the way we think. It should correct our vision. It should challenge our perspective. There’s nothing like difficult circumstances to get your eyes off of Jesus. Pain has a way of averting our gaze from the face of our Savior to the difficulty of our problem. And once our eyes are off of Christ, it’s a quick, slippery slope from joy to a bad attitude.
What do you do when your attitude is broken? Let me speak from my own experience. There is not a day that goes by when my attitude does not need some readjusting. I find it far too easy to allow negative thoughts to consume my mind, and the next thing you know, my joy is gone. When the joy is gone, the murmuring, grumbling, and complaining begin to flow like a river. When I allow that stream to continue to flow, anger, bitterness, and resentment are just around the corner. Here’s the thing, though. Attitude IS a choice. I choose my attitude. I have no control over how someone will treat me or who will cut me off on the highway tomorrow, but I can choose in that moment to “Consider it pure joy.”
Because every test of my faith has the ability to strengthen my faith if I choose to allow it to. Every trial that I undergo has the ability to change me from who I used to be and make me look more like Jesus. It’s not easy to choose a joyful attitude when circumstances and people are tough, but it is possible. Choosing joy when there seems to be no reason for it isn’t our natural default, but by the grace of God, it is possible.
Because joy is not happiness.
Because joy is not dependent on circumstance.
Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
Because joy comes from abiding in Christ.
And you and I can choose today to abide in Christ—to get in His Word, to sit at His feet, to soak up His truth. And joy, my friends, is the natural by-product of abiding in Him.