Change Your Attitude

Read: James 1:1-12
Reflect:  Raising children and teaching them to navigate this world is not for the faint of heart. Life is hard. It’s unfair. We don’t understand why things happen as they do. When we were raising our kids we would tell them, “Change your attitude.”   Sometimes they had to make the choice to believe Mom and Dad, and eventually, to believe God’s Word.  They had to learn to trust that what we and God said was true, even when their eyes couldn’t see the truth and they didn’t understand. They did not like this directive very much and as they grew into teens and young adults this became a jesting tagline they would use on each other. I laugh just thinking about my kids telling each other in their Mom or Dad imitation voices, “You know what you need to do? Change your attitude.” The instigator would often be grinning before the first sentence was completely off their lips and the other would be feigning irritation or also smiling. It’s one of their interactions I really miss… 
The day my son, Anthony, went to Heaven felt like a twilight zone. Sounds and sights had a distorted quality and every sense in my body felt overwhelmed. I was so horrified and heartbroken that I couldn’t breathe. The pain was so great that my autonomic nervous system couldn’t even perform properly. Etched into my memory is sitting across the table from my daughter-in-law as we discussed funeral arrangements and reading her t-shirt: “Choose Joy ”. I asked her if she had chosen that shirt on purpose that morning. She said “Yes”. I felt challenged in my immense grief but knew she was presenting a foundational truth as we began a journey none of us wanted to take. I had a choice in my attitude. 
James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds. Joy wasn’t my natural immediate response that day. I knew that it would be a choice to trust that God has a better purpose in allowing our family to suffer such immense grief. I would have to choose to believe the second part of the passage that says, “because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 
No other experience has tested my faith like losing my son. How can I have joy, be complete, not lacking anything, with the gaping Anthony-sized hole in my heart? I don’t know. I do know and rest in my deep settled confidence that God is in control and has a plan for every detail of my life but some days are much, much harder than others. Some days, perseverance is an act of will and I must consciously choose to believe God’s word and trust that He causes all things to work together for my good; even saying goodbye to my son. (Romans 8:28) On those days, I can almost hear Anth’s voice and laughter as he tells me, “Mom, you know what you need to do? Change your attitude!” This time though, his laughter isn’t jesting. It’s filled with joy and knowing because he can see and understand that which I still cannot. He stood his test, received his crown of life, and joined the great throng of witnesses, encouraging us to persevere in our own races.
Apply: What about you? Where do you need to persevere and make the choice to trust and count it all joy in the trials of your life?  Is God saying to you, “Change your attitude”?

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