Don't Cry Over Spilled Shampoo
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." James 1:2 (NLT)
What began as a simple plan to renovate a bathroom in dire need of updating, quickly morphed our entire house into a disaster zone.
Due to unanticipated electrical and plumbing issues, the mess extended beyond the bathroom, affecting multiple rooms in the house. Due to bad advice and disappointing work, the project dragged on for months.
I could write my name in the layer of sheetrock dust on all the furniture, despite how many bottles of furniture polish I used. Then our old air conditioning unit kicked the bucket, and our checking account was about to do the same. But it was a bottle of spilled shampoo in the one bathroom my family of five had been sharing that pushed me over the edge.
The day after splurging on an oversized bottle of moisturizing shampoo, I found it on the floor of the bathroom with half the contents spilled into a huge gooey puddle. I cleaned it up in silent aggravation. But the following day when I found it on the floor again, in yet another big puddle, tears began to spill as easily as that shampoo had from the bottle.
Later that day, I whined to a friend about my frustrating circumstances. She gently suggested I read James 1:2. I confess, I wasn't in the mood to look up a Bible verse. But thankfully I did, and reading this verse prompted me to pause, think and refocus.
James 1:2 says, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy."
I thought about how blessed we were to have lived in our home for 17 years, where we've raised all our children. I thought about the sweet memories our home held, despite its condition. I thought about the lessons we were learning as a family about tolerance, closeness, consideration and perseverance. I thought about the blessing of being able to afford the renovation.
As I focused on my blessings, all the small annoyances suddenly seemed much less important. I had countless reasons to be thankful, but had allowed daily frustrations and disappointments to steal my joy. In fact, my problems were nothing compared to the people James was addressing in today's key verse.
James wrote to Christians who were experiencing severe persecution, facing various trials and sufferings. They endured difficult adversities and injustices, and were juggling an array of emotions including fear, mourning, confusion and loneliness. Some were sick. Others had fled their homes for safety.
These Christians had serious reasons to complain. In his letter, James acknowledged their suffering but also reminded them of reasons to rejoice in spite of it.
James encouraged them to pause and refocus on their faith, even when life was hard. He knew that such times presented the opportunity to persevere and practice finding joy in Christ, despite their circumstances.
Most of us don't experience direct religious persecution, but often life can make us feel persecuted, whether it's small aggravations like crying kids, unkind co-workers and messy houses, or major problems involving marriage, finances, health or employment. These daily problems can cause us to lose focus on things that really matter, and fill our hearts with fear, sorrow, frustrations, hopelessness and anger — things that steal our joy in Christ.
Sometimes we allow trivial things to steal our joy, such as a bottle of spilled shampoo. At other times we may reach a breaking point for much more serious reasons. But whether our problems are big or small, James 1:2 reminds us to purposely and intentionally choose joy in Christ, even in the midst of our troubles.
Joy comes from choice, not problem-free circumstances, and James wanted us all to know that.
Instead of writing my name in the sheetrock dust on my furniture, I think I'll just smile and etch in another word instead: joy.
Lord, help me find joy in You every day, despite my circumstances. Fill me with peace and help me choose joy on purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever." (NLT)
James 1:3-4, "For when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete." (TLB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What circumstances in your life have been stealing your joy?
Journal all you have to be thankful for today. Pray over your list and ask God to help you focus on your blessings, instead of problems.