Let me confess a pet peeve of mine – drivers who block an intersection when the light turns red. I was sitting at a red light one day this week and watched it happen in front of me. I saw that traffic was backed up going the other way and the light turned yellow. The cars that were coming proceeded to pull up to the next car, not caring that the light was going to turn red and I wasn’t going to be able to get past them. How dare they!? I’m the type of person who, no matter how annoyed I get, isn’t going to honk the horn to express my displeasure, so I just ranted at the person from inside my car. Was that the right attitude to have? No. Did I realize that I was being ridiculous because my anger wasn’t impacting those other drivers in any way? Yes. I certainly wasn’t acting like a follower of Jesus who should be “slow to anger” (James 1:19) in that moment.
James is one of the shorter books of the Bible, and it’s also one of the most direct. James, which was actually written by Jesus’ half-brother, Jacob (confusing, but true), focuses on how people who love God and know God should act. Facing a blocked intersection is a minor trouble that certainly pales in comparison to many of the bigger and more serious trials that people face, but James 1:2 says “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”
It’s easy to be joyful when things are going great and everything is working out just right for you. But what about when there’s trouble in your life? You lose your job, your spouse gets sick, a fire destroys your home. Say what? Terrible things are happening to me and you want me to be joyful? The thing is, when I choose to be joyful despite my circumstances, it makes you put your faith into action and develops endurance. The times when I’ve faced things like the loss of a job or my parents getting divorced, those are times that I can say I’ve felt the closest to God because he was the only one who could help me. I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t fix the situation myself and surrender to the truth that I needed his strength! Seeing how God was with me and provided for me made my faith even stronger than it was before the trial.
These types of examples are big, giant troubles that can consume our thoughts and threaten to steal our joy. But small troubles can do the same thing. You get cut off in traffic, you’re running late and can’t find your car keys, you’re taking the trash out and the bag rips before you get out of the house. How do you react in those situations? Honestly, joy isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when those types of things take place, but these are times that can help us to strengthen our faith. How do people know we have faith? Through our words, perhaps, but even more strongly through our actions. “Actions speak louder than words” is a well-known saying for a reason. When you choose to not lash out in frustration or to smile instead of yell, you’re exercising your faith and making it stronger through action.
I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re facing today, but I pray that you’ll take the opportunity to experience joy and increase your faith endurance.