If you ever get a personal email from me, my usual signature is, “Choose to make it a great day!” I’ve learned that if you don’t choose your attitude, either your day or someone else will. I know what it’s like to live under Murphy’s Law where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I had a day once where I was driving about 600 miles. On the way, my car spun out during a snow storm. I ended up 50 feet from the road sunk in mud that was up to my knees. After getting wrenched out, my heater quit working. I got a drive through coffee, but it spilled in my lap looking like I wet my pants. Then both headlights went out at the same time. The store only had one, so I replaced just one. I then got pulled over by the police for having only one headlight. That was a bad day.
I can tell you that it’s hard to have a good attitude on a day like that, but I’ve learned that if I don’t, I can get on a streak of bad days. We tend to bring things into our lives that are most in line with our thoughts and attitude. How we choose to see the world determines what we focus on. If we’ve got a bad attitude, we’ll see all the negative things happening to us. If we choose a good attitude, we’ll see the good around us. As Christians, we need to remember that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when bad things come into our life, knowing that God can work it out for our good can change our attitude.
Proverbs 15:15 says, “Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness” (TPT). I like to start each day quoting David, “This IS the day that the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!” When things go wrong, I repeat it. When multiple things go wrong, I stop and pray for God to open my eyes to see what He wants me to find in it, and to give me the strength to endure. We can have joy on the worst of our days by the mental choices we make, praying for God’s help and meditating on His Word.
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When people ask where I went to school, I often say, “Hard Knocks University.” For the longest time, it seemed that life kept knocking me down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain ground. In fact, it felt like the bottom kept falling out from underneath me. I learned that the only way to fail Hard Knocks University is to quit. I also learned that the only way to graduate was to get closer to God. The troubles we face in life can either make us bitter or better. We get to choose by how we respond when we keep getting knocked down.
For me, I let it push me closer to God. I found myself praying more asking God for the wisdom to make better decisions. I also started reading the Bible more. I knew there were principles in it that could help with the things I was facing, so I began to consume the Bible looking for answers. What I got was a deeper relationship with God and the promise that He wouldn’t abandon me in my troubles. I began to put my focus on Him instead of my problems, and then I began telling my problems about Him instead of the other way around.
The Psalmist must have graduated Hard Knocks University too. Psalm 119:71 says, “My troubles turned out for the best – they forced me to learn your textbook” (MSG). If you’re in the toughest school around, let it draw you closer to God and His textbook. He probably won’t take the troubles away as quick as you like, but you are guaranteed that He will walk through them with you. Failure can’t be an option, and you don’t want to keep taking the same course. If you want to graduate, you’re going to have to read the textbook. I recommend you start with a chapter in Proverbs each day to get the wisdom you need.
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I’ve been a sales trainer for a few years, and one thing has been consistent. When some people show up for training, they’re not happy. They want to know if class is really going to take the full time. By the end of class though, many of them change their attitudes. They’ll walk out and say, “Thanks. I didn’t think I needed this, but I learned something.” Our attitude towards training is much like our attitude towards troubles in life. We don’t want them or see a need for them. However, when we’ve made it through them, we find ourselves stronger.
I think James was trying to make that same correlation for us in James 1:2-3. He wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Joy is usually the last emotion that I pair with troubles and trials, but James says they’re an opportunity for us to have it.
I’ve said before that joy is not dependent on your circumstances, happiness is. Joy comes from deep within. It looks at your big picture, while happiness looks at the little one. Joy is something you choose to have no matter what. Each of us choose our attitude in our circumstances. If we don’t, our circumstances will choose our attitude for us. In most cases, it chooses the wrong attitude. Choosing Joy gives you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.
The second part of that verse is where we get our Joy from. We don’t look at the current trouble, but the end result. What do trials produce in us? Endurance. Verse 4 says, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If you can train yourself to keep the end in mind, you will learn to handle troubles a lot better. Don’t waste your times of trouble. Use them for what they’re for: growth and endurance. By choosing the wrong attitude, you prolong your time in them, and miss what God has for you. Keep the end in mind, and choose Joy.
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