Friday, November 21, 2008

Shifting Focus

I don't know if there's such a thing as Blogger's Block, like writer's block, but if there is then I believe I have some sort of variation of it. It's not as if there aren't a zillion things to write about, it's just that nearly every time I start writing lately, it ends up in the round file. It's a busy time of year, I've been sick as a dog, and there have been events and circumstances come along in the last few weeks that have left me going "wha!?" for days on end. Like the old Morton Salt commercial it seems when it rains, it pours. That sort of thing tends to make me second guess pretty much everything, and sort of retreat into my own thoughts to try to sort it all out.

Yesterday Kim posted on a verse that has been on my mind a lot lately as well. She posted on James 1:2-3, the "count it all joy" passage that is so often quoted and so infrequently really hammered out exegetically. Kim got it right, in that her focus is to be the outcome of the trial by His grace, not the details of the trial. For so long I used to hear "count it all joy" by those who were trying to be encouraging and they just left it there. Joy? How do you find joy when you're crying so hard your body is convulsing, or suffering in so much physical pain that you can't even breathe without forcing yourself to focus? Where is joy when your heart is broken clean in two and you can't even function enough to accomplish basic household chores? Where is that joy when you begin pray one more time for that particular situation and you don't even know how to pray about it anymore? It's in those times that this joy seems to be so far away it's not even possible to be yours.

I don't know of any studies or statistics but I'm pretty sure us women are far more prone to focusing on the details of trials than men are, and therefore I think we have a harder time looking at the purpose or the pending outcome of trials. I know we're more emotional than men, so that doesn't help either. We tend to dwell on details and if those details are painful then the emotions take over and that drags us righ off the path.

As hard as it can be to keep our focus in the right place, it is indeed true that there is joy in knowing the Lord will use difficult, painful, heartbreaking times to make us stronger. Not only stronger, but more aware of our dependance on Him, more compassionate towards others that are in or have gone through the same kinds of trials, and also cause us to take another look at our priorities and do a re-shifting there, quite often. The joy is definitely not in the pain, the joy is in knowing God is using it in our lives for something good, down the road.

Like Kim posted yesterday, "I just have to keep repeating. Lord, give me the heart to count it all joy." Toward that end, I've been singing a lot of hymns to myself as I do my chores around the house lately. I've also re-read Calvin, Gill and Henry on this passage and that has been a tremendous help as well. I need those reminders, no matter how many trials I go through. I need to be dwelling on His goodness, His faithfulness, and His grace. When you dwell on that, rather than the details, that joy seems so much closer, and you truly do find your strength in Him.

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