“Christians ought not to slander God by looking as if they were at an everlasting funeral.” (Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit).
“A happy heart makes a face look cheerful.
But a sad heart produces a broken spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13).
“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15).
Unfortunately there are some who profess to be Christians who never show any joy in their lives. They go about looking as though their favorite pet had just died or they had lost their best friend. Tell them a joke and they don’t even smile. Tell them some good news and they barely acknowledge it with a “That’s nice.” You dare not ask them how they are because you know they will give you an organ recital – their stomach, heart, kidney, liver condition, dandruff, etc. ad infinitum. Their theme song is the old “Hee-Haw” lament, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!” They remind you of the character “Eeyore” in the “Winnie the Pooh” stories – always gloomy – and as portrayed in the cartoons, having a dark cloud hanging over his head. Such have a chronic case of “negativitis” regarding the church and their brethren – and life in general. When you see them coming you want to turn and run in the opposite direction! These perpetually pessimistic people are disappointed when everything goes well!
There are others in a far worse condition than these, who seem to be always cheerful and upbeat. They may have major health issues, be broke financially and have suffered significant losses such as a job, loved ones or other such things yet they are a joy to be around. Their attitude is contagious. You feel lifted up for having been in their presence. I don’t mean that they are like Pollyanna – playing a “glad game,” but are of such an attitude that they find real reasons for a positive outlook in spite of their circumstances. Oh, I know everyone has their down moments – or days, but positive people just don’t let those times get them down.
How do you account for the difference between these two kinds of people? Obviously it is a matter of attitude. Attitude is “manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.” But what causes two people in similar circumstances have such different attitudes?
Our attitude is very much our own creation. We can choose to be positive in our thinking or we can choose to be negative. We can choose to control our “mental posture” or we can choose to allow the flow of events control us, pulling us down into depression and despair. Obviously this will be much more difficult in times of distress, but even in these circumstances we can choose to maintain a good attitude.
I realize, of course, that there are people who have real mental illnesses which they can’t help except through medical treatment. There is no shame in having problems such as these. In principle a mental illness is no different from acne or the flu. We are not speaking of people who have mental illnesses.
For those who need an “attitude adjustment,” what are some ways we can “accentuate the positive” and create a better, more cheerful attitude?
First and foremost I would suggest that we always count our blessings. We have been richly blessed by a loving heavenly Father.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3).
He cares more for us than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field – and he abundantly provides for them. Jesus asks, “Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Paul said that God…
“…predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:5-7).
Peter emphasized the value of our souls to God by the price he paid for our redemption. Human beings are so valuable that God paid the highest price that he could pay to redeem us unto himself.
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:17-19).
Second, we should always be thankful. There is nothing that drives away the gloom better than an attitude of thankfulness. Thanksgiving is the expression of gratitude. Gratitude comes from a realization of how much God has blessed us – and that comes from having counted our blessings.
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6).
Most of my brethren can quote Ephesians 5:19 from memory – but how many can quote the next part of that same sentence – which says,
“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 5:20).
Third, we can choose to rejoice – to be filled with joy. Paul commanded this in Philippians 4:4.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
Peter tells us in that true joy comes from knowing and loving the Lord whom we have not seen but to whom we entrust our lives and our futures.
“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)
Finally, we can choose to be a blessing to others, increasing our joy by giving joy to others. The joy of service is a far deeper, more satisfying, gratifying experience than any temporary worldly joy.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy. (Rabindranath Tagore).
Of Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” it was said that he…
“…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).
How could what Jesus did and the suffering he endured be seen as joy? He was doing the Father’s will and doing mankind a service that neither we nor any other being on earth or in heaven could do. He was securing our salvation. He was finishing the Father’s work of redeeming mankind. We are to have that same mind for service as Paul wrote to the Philippian saints.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippian 2:4-8).
It was for this kind of humble servant-mindedness and obedience that we were called into a relationship with God. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10…
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
If this is the purpose for which we have been made children of God, then fulfilling that purpose ought to give us the greatest satisfaction and joy we can realize.
It is tragic when one who professes to be a Christian complains about being down and sad and always complaining about their unfortunate lot in life. They should count their blessings, get down on their knees and thank God for them, rejoice in all that is good they share in as God’s children and then get up, get out and get busy being a blessing to others!