To Think or To Feel? That is the question.

When faced with a difficult or trying experience, do you “feel pure joy”?

I have struggled with this verse “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials… knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3.  As I have wrestled with this verse, I have found that it doesn’t mean if you are a good Christian you will have joy no matter what.  While you sit by your baby in the hospital and watch him scream as the nurses poke and prod his little hand trying to find a vein in his arm, you will not have joy.  Or as you write the check to the mechanic using the rent money for this month, you will not have joy. When I am faced with trying circumstances, it’s hard for me to think of joyful thoughts, much less feel joy in the midst of them.  I have tried, but it doesn’t work.

I recently came across  Beth Moore’s word study on the word “consider” and “persevere”, and it helped me see this verse in a new way that made much more sense.  So take heart my friends, this will help you if you have had the same struggle.

“The word consider calls us to a mental exercise. Not an emotion.  James isn’t telling us to have a knee-slapper over all we’re going through. He’s telling us to think, to reflect, and to esteem the unalloyed (pure) joys available to us.” ~ Beth Moore

Let’s replace “consider” with “think or reflect on”:

  • This is how I mis-interpreted this verse: Feel great joy, my brother, whenever you experience various trials.
  • This is what it says: Reflect on the joy available to us, my brother, whenever you experience various trials.

Do you see the difference? 

It would be much more difficult if not impossible to force yourself to feel something, but it is possible to “consider or reflect” on something without actually forcing yourself to feel it.

One thing I always remind myself and my clients is this: Our thoughts turn into feelings/moods and they determine our actions.  When processing a situation we think through it, even if we are not thinkers by nature, and we feel it even if those feelings just turn into moods and are not outwardly expressed.  As you have feelings/moods wash over you like waves in a violent storm, choose wisely what wave you will ride. Instead of focusing on dissatisfaction and frustration, focus on the joys available to you.  

You can be doing all the right things, but if you don’t guard your thoughts the rest of your efforts will be jeopardized.

I leave you with this summary: Guard your thoughts, as if your life depended on it, and reflect on the joys that are available to us. 

What is available to us through Christ Jesus? A butt load of stuff! For starters, His guidance, His promises, His care, His provision, His Faith, His Hope, His Salvation…. Look around and find the joys in your surroundings  There is always something you can be thankful for.

Do you struggle with guarding your thoughts? What are ways you keep yourself from going down the road of negative self-talk?

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  1. How wonderful is this reminder Mari – I often struggled with that verse too. Especially during those times when it seems everything is falling apart. I love where you said “guard your thoughts…” – so often my thoughts turn into uglier thoughts and pretty soon my mood and actions are reflecting what I’m thinking. It’s so easy to let this get out of control. When I’m feeling like riding the wrong wave – I force myself to start a list of things I’m thankful for. And I keep going until I can think more clearly and dont’ feel so out of control with my thoughts. Great post!

    • Stephanie, Thanks, I am so glad you stopped by and shared. Isn’t it amazing how our thoughts can quickly go down hill, I am always shocked by it. I like your thankful list idea. I usually go running and just pray or find a quiet place to go pray.

  2. Thank you–thank! I believe you got this exactly correct. We aren’t told to have super happy feelings when hard or hurtful things happen to us…but our MINDS and our THOUGHTS are to be transformed! How? Romans 12:2 tells us: “… by the renewing of your mind”!! Feelings can change with the wind but no matter what our circumstances we can be content and thankful to God!