A way to deal with life's trials: "enjoy-and-thank"

Sometimes it feels like life is one long wrestling match against a stronger opponent. Very few things come easily. How we come through life's many challenges is a matter of having a biblical perspective and some practical steps to take.

Our family bought a house this summer. The inspector said, "For a 60-year-old house, this place is in great shape." He went on to say those magical words: "it has really good bones." Well, no sooner did we move in than things stopped working and we discovered all sorts of problems. One morning Susan was turning on the shower, and the shower handle came off in her hand. You know, stuff like that. On the more serious side, when Sacramento got its first good rain of the year, I came home to find water dripping steadily from the ceiling in the living room onto one of the television speakers we had bought five days earlier. Living in this house has felt like a wrestling match in which I'm being outpointed rather badly.

At times, Susan's and my marriage has felt like a wrestling match. So has our relationship with our kids. And our jobs. It can easily feel like your getting outpointed. You're going through your week just trying not to get pinned. Let alone the thought of winning. Yeah, right.

Today I started the book of James for my devotional reading. He takes it for granted that life will often get you in a chokehold. That's an important point, because it's easy as a Christian to carry an expectation that God is going to remove most of the difficulties from our lives. Not so. God doesn't call us out of the fight. He gives us better skills and instincts with which to fight.

So, James says, when life has thrown you to the mat and you're having a hard time moving, let's call this a "trial." Your first key is perspective. James would say, "Repeat after me. Trials are good." A trial produces a lot of decision points. Will you remain on God's path for you or find a way out? Persevering under trial cultivates depth of character and spiritual maturity. The you that you really want to be can only come about this way. So, rather than giving in to anxiety and hopelessness, focus on how good it is to be challenged to your limits, and "consider it pure joy." That's more than just seeing the silver lining in the cloud. It's having such a complete change of perspective that you consider a trial pure joy. Complete joy. Total joy. 100% joy. This shift in perspective has long been a game changer for me. But I still find myself complaining too much, so I have to renew my perspective from time to time.

In addition to taking on a biblical perspective, I've found a simple way to keep my mind in a joyful place. Enjoy-and-thank. What is there to enjoy? Right now I'm thinking about how refreshing the cold, clean water I'm sipping is. Last night it was the sound of a soft rain falling in our back yard. I thought, "This is one of the greatest rain houses I've ever been in." You know what I mean? I love rain, and some places accentuate the peaceful sound of water. (It helps that the roof had some work done, and it appears not to be leaking.)

So, I am simply enjoying things, and I'm letting my enjoyment be a prayer of thanks. "God, this water tastes good." "Wow, look at the morning sun on the redwood tree." "The clock makes such a comforting sound." "I love Snickers bars that are left over after Halloween."

So, there's a shift in perspective and a practice. May we be people who live biblically even during life's trials.


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