If you’ve been following this blog, you know James says to “count it all joy…when you meet various trials.”
Not only did I read that, I memorized it. I meditated on it. I taught it to my Bible study class. By the time I was done, I knew all there was to know about counting it all joy.
And then I went home.
I felt like I was drowning in responsibilities and deadlines and worries and I couldn’t see a way out. I was doing my favorite thing when I get overwhelmed, which is to pace around the house eating and yelling at everybody else to do what they’re supposed to be doing but somehow had forgotten. And this little voice came into my head: “Count it all joy, when you meet various trials….”
This isn’t a “trial,” I told that voice. It doesn’t count. Nobody’s sick. There’s money in the bank. This is my own problem. It’s just me doing too much and then having to deal with it. It’s not a “trial”. No way am I going to count it all joy. (Snarl, snarl, eat some more chips, rant at the kids).
“Count it all joy, Sarah, when you face various trials” I heard again in my ear.
“I know, I know! I know all about that.”
“So why don’t you do it?”
And another verse from James popped into my head, James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
If I think I’m religious (in the best sense of that word), but then I stomp around yelling at my kids and stuff my face because I can’t count my trials as joy, and if I know that God gives me the power to face them with joy, then my religion is vain. (I looked up synonyms for vain: it doesn’t mean “not true,” but ineffective. Hopeless. Unsuccessful. Unproductive. Futile. Useless. Worthless.) If I can’t count my trials joy, my religion is worthless to me.
Hey, I wrote a bible study on that. I know what to do.
It doesn’t matter.
Jesus came to re-create us with his word. To give us life. To restore his own life in us, to make a difference in the self-centered, proud, noisy, angry, selfish lives we live. Not to teach us nice things to think about so we can think we know the answers.
When I heard that little voice in my head again, I had to take a deep breath. I had to go into my room, sit down, ask forgiveness and pray for help, so I could count it all joy, and act like it in front of my kids instead of making everyone else suffer for my problems. God’s word is not just words. It is living, active, life-changing. But we have to make room for it to work in our lives, and act on it. Only then will we find “pure religion” and be conformed to the image of our Lord.
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Read my other posts on James here (the links will become live as they are posted):
- “Count it All Joy” (1:2)
- “Mirror, mirror” (or, what it means to be a doer; 1:22-25) – on the Bible Study for Catholics blog
- Show No Partiality (2:1-13)
- Patience vs. Grumbling (5:9)
Study James: Pearls of Wise Living in your home group or parish.