When Life Gives You Lemons

By Leah Swank Partnership Coordinator

I think I was in the 5th or 6th grade when my dad was my basketball coach through our church’s league. Anyone familiar with Upward Basketball? Two words…good times. Part of the Upward Basketball program is that while the game is important, it is not the most important. At the end of each practice our team would have a devotional and be challenged to memorize pieces of Scripture for the following practice. If we were able to recite the verse we got a star to add to our uniform for game days.

I can vividly remember sitting on the gym floor when our verse for the week was James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…”. As an awkward 5th or 6th grade kid, that verse didn’t mean a whole lot to me, but some how it always seemed to pop up in our house over the next several years.

I always find it interesting to see how as we grow up, verses we memorized as children, come to mind at the most unexpected times. This verse is no exception. I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone when I say that this verse is one that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grasp this side of heaven, but the more I study it, the more perspective I gain of my own heart and the character of God.

There is a common phrase that goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, but what if you don’t want lemonade? What if you never asked for lemonade, what if lemons hurt your stomach, and so the list goes on and on and on. When life begins catapulting lemons my way, James 1:19 is my lemonade.

“…let every person be quick to hear [listen]…”
If you are like me, you struggle to just get through the first part of this verse. Today, we all operate with a “right now” mindset. We want answers now, results immediately, relief right away. We are quick to demand explanations, but lack listening skills when it comes to discerning why God allows us to experience life’s curve balls.

Some of us might pray about each of our situations. We tell God why life is hard right at the moment, we ask (sometimes beg) for him to fix everything immediately. We think that the more we tell God about what is going on in our lives, the quicker he will respond.  But if we are honest, how often do we allow ourselves to be still (and quiet) in the presence of God and allow him to speak?

I’m not a Bible expert, but what I’ve had to ask myself recently is that if the Bible tells us that we were made in Christ’s image and we are to follow in his footsteps, could this verse be telling us to be quick to listen because our Father in heaven is quick to listen to us?

What I am learning, slowly I might add, is that there is no shame in asking God why he is allowing it to rain lemons. There is nothing wrong with consistently asking him to take away the lemonade. What I’ve come to know to be true in my own relationship with God, however, is that while I may be quick to resist what is going on around me, I need to train my heart to be still before the Lord and to wait patiently for him to speak.  His answer may not be what I want, but if I say that I want what he wants, then I’m going to have to trust, listen, and follow where he is leading me…even if it’s to a lemonade stand.

“…slow to speak…”

If we are actively choosing to listen for God to answer, if we are actively choosing to watch for him to make a move, then we are willingly choosing to be slow to speak.

Have you ever noticed that, on occasion, God chooses to speak to us in the most bizarre ways? While we sit and wait for him to speak to our hearts, we begin to sip on the lemonade. The very thing that we had resisted from the beginning. The longer we wait on God, the more sips we take. What once was bitter and sour tasting, becomes sweet and refreshing. Before we know it the lemonade is gone and we begin looking for a refill.

“…slow to anger…”

So here is the question.

If up to this point we have actively chosen to listen for God to speak, and if in that process we have begun to drink the lemonade we blamed him for, can we still be angry for the lemons we were given?

For many of us, we read James 19 in reverse. We are quick to anger, quick to speak, and slow to listen. When life gives us lemons, we throw them back and ask for something better, something more satisfying. The reality of this verse however, is that it contains the directions to making a better lemonade than we could have imagined.

There is an old hymn that reads, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”. I can almost guarantee the writer was not referring to metaphorical lemonade, regardless the truth in this hymn is that when we place our trust in Jesus’ plan for our lives, the outcome is pretty sweet.

So the choice is yours. When God gives you lemons, will you try the lemonade?