The Choice Is Yours (...And Mine)
James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
One of the best rap song...no, scratch that...best SONGS of ANY GENRE ever is Black Sheep’s “The Choice is Yours”. It was their introduction to the world of music and it had everything: Sick base line, sharp lyrics and smart satire on deciding what kind of life you want. The chorus LITERALLY repeats this -
“You can get with THIS (their flow, their style) or you can get with THAT (wack MCs aka rappers, wack style, wackness in general).
Black Sheep’s first single is pretty bold. They come out of the corner and say, you have a choice and you SHOULD choose THIS (cause this is kinda phat and where it’s at) but you have a choice.
The above very shows choice at its finest, through TWO different experiences.
You really can’t get more opposite than those two words, now can you? Okay, I’m sure someone reading this has found four or five examples but I’m sure you catch my heart behind my slight hyperbole. We love cheer. We love to feel great about everything. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, we strongly dislike moments of egregious sadness and pain. We want to know we have money to blow. We hate being broke. We love when our kid has a great first day of school. We hate the embarrassment of their public breakdown on their second day. We love traveling. We hate getting lost. We love romance. We (at times) hate the lead up to it.
Suffering. Cheerful. Two sides of the same coin. The coin of life, or better still, the coin of us.
God, through the apostle and writer James’ mind and heart, gives clear direction on what we, as believers should do when either of these feelings come about and what we should choose.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Not sulk. Not cower. Not complain. Not lie about it. Not pretend everything is okay. Not take it out on others.
Nope. Pray. Place all attention on God of all Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) through deep tough conversations. Yell at him. Bring the need there. Allow him to help, direct and pull you up and through whatever it is that is causing pain, be it physical, social, spiritual, sinful...
And is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Not boast. Not keep it to one’s self. Not find pride. Not take credit. Not over plan. Not build a formula.
Nope. Sing praise. Give the glory of the help away. Tell someone. Put it in song. In writing. Make it about the one who brings cheer. Make that mountain top moment about the one who built the mountain.
God doesn’t give me an out on either of those fronts.
If my life is a pain, I am suppose to pray through it. Press in to press through. If I am sick, while reaching for Advil, I need to be calling on the healer. If I have hurt someone deeply, I need to be reaching for the Lord while reaching for their hand in forgiveness. If I have lost my money of my own doing, I need to repent and seek God’s wisdom and self control while watching Dave Ramsey. And if I lost my money because sometimes life sucks, I need to reach for the giver of all things while waiting for next pay.
And if life is great? I need to proclaim why? If I am healed, to God be the glory! If sin is confessed, thank God for healing and renewed purpose AND the hope of renewed relationship. If money if found, be smarter, save it, tithe it and thank him. Tell the world. That’s what praise is. Giving glory and proclaiming greatest to someone Greater and Better than you.
And this happens in community...James goes on to say if I’m sick, get prayer from others and if I’m dying in sin, tell someone and be free. Suffering happens together. Cheer happens together.
I kinda like that.
I have to choose what I do. But my choices are very very limited. Pray and Praise. That’s it.
“Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord...still I will say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name.’” - Matt Redman, Blessed Be Your Name