I rolled my ankle the other day. It would be nice to say I was doing something cool, like trail running, or heroic like saving kittens from a burning tree. . . well, ok I was walking. I had also just gotten a speeding ticket.
I know a lot of people have bad days, or weeks or whatever. Days when everything seems to be going wrong. You know the phrase; all the shit hit the fan. Then there are extended periods of time when stuff goes wrong. When life seems to be just a string of annoying circumstances and little shits that hit the fan intermittingly over the course of several months. Stuff that isn’t that big of a deal but when it happens a lot it makes you want to start flipping desks and throwing chairs. Like losing your license and having to go to the DMV. . .twice. And losing your wallet three times in one month, the third time for good. Over the course of the semester getting five parking tickets and pulled over 3 times. Gaining seven pounds in a week.
Then there are the normal little things you have to put up with on a daily basis. The restaurant you work at is absurdly busy, all the servers are cussing and all the guests are complaining. The kids you baby sit haven’t stopped crying because you won’t let them watch Elf for the fifth time in a row. You’re power steering pump has a leak and you constantly have to add fluid to it.
I’m sure you can relate to a few of these things. You probably even have crappier problems to deal with than me. We’ve all got crappy things to deal with. We all should start a sewage plant with our crap.
We all deal with crappy stuff, and I don’t think we should boo hoo about it or anything, but one of my biggest problems comes when I pretend like all these little things can’t get to me. They can get to me, bit by bit the way maggots devour a carcass. They can build up, reproduce and steal my peace right out from under my nose, replacing it with irritability and stress. They can get the best of me because I try to ignore them until it’s too late, because I don’t consider them trials. James 1:2-4 says this-
Count it all as joy brothers, when you experience trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The pastor of my church in Chattanooga was preaching on James 1:2-3 and he put it perfectly the other day when he said problems are inevitable and unpredictable. They catch you off-guard, when you have ten bucks in your bank account or when you’re out of coffee. They can disguise themselves as trivialities and so make one dismiss them outright instead of responding to them mindfully, with patience and prayer. Then there are the problems you deal with on the reg. Oswald Chambers called this drudgery, he talks a lot about it in My Utmost for His Highest. Drudgery is best describes as what feels like mindless, purposeless work; like busing tables nonstop at work. But drudgery can be anything when you are just going through the motions. When you are just reacting instead of considering.
When reading this passage in James, I always used to think that he meant big stuff. Like persecution and whatnot and I think he specifically was here. Then my pastor made me realize there is a reason he says various kinds of trials. James was a pretty smart dude, he knew not to dismiss any kind of struggle.
Trials produce endurance, but only if we choose the right way to respond to them. My pastor and Oswald Chambers both reminded me that the way to respond is with joy; not that I’m in a sucky situation, but knowing God has given us opportunity to grow my patience and draw on his strength, and knowing that God has ability to work through every trivial aspect of my life.
This is the reaction I want to choose, the one that is so very against my nature. Please remind me of this the next time I get a parking ticket.