Some people are so optimistic they probably could find room freshener in sewage. Given the obvious absence of healthy optimism in our current environment, this is quite an accomplishment. Although there is no happy pill to take every day, there is a way to stay on the path to joy.
We don’t deny that each of us has different temperaments, which makes us respond to situations differently. For example, I tend to be a melancholy-type personality. I may act like one of the Old Testament prophets by being outspoken, goal-oriented, and sometimes too introspective.
Some may be so full of jokes and fun-loving they can get on that “last nerve” of more than a few in a room full of people. Others are so easy going, calm, and relaxed it may cause you to wonder if they are walking on water. One of my favorites is the person who talks all the time, is highly animated and eager for attention. Their opposite is silent, focused, and analytical.
Teenagers are a breed unto themselves, usually giving off their “I don’t talk to anyone over 17” aura. You also may hear, “Don’t enter my room without knocking. In fact, don’t come in at all!” Their loyal emotional companions are moodiness and impatience.
But wouldn’t it be great if we could always bring hope, even to young people, to any table filled with plates of negative energy. You may be saying that sounds really positive but totally impossible. Please permit me to share with you one example of how it’s done.
There were two young twin boys who were raised in the same surroundings and doing the same things. They had similar likes and dislikes. In fact, they seemed almost identical in every way except one. One boy always took the high road and looked for the positive, while the other appeared to see the dark side of every situation. The parents took the boys to a psychologist hoping to find out why there was such a difference in each child’s outlook. The first twin was put into a room filled with games, objects, and all kinds of “a dream come true” toys. For five minutes he was observed by his parents and the psychologist through a one-way glass. The little boy walked around going from toy to object to games. At the end of five minutes, the psychologist removed the boy from the room and asked him, “Why didn’t you play with any of the toys?” His answer, “I was afraid I would break them.”
The psychologist repeated the same situation with the second twin except for one difference. There were no toys. Instead, sitting in the middle of the room was a giant pile of manure. When the boy entered the room, his eyes became as big as saucers, and his mouth dropped open. Suddenly, he leaped into the pile and began digging like a dog digs a hole to bury his bone. Manure was flying everywhere, but he never stopped digging. At the end of five minutes when the psychologist brought him out of the room, his parents stared at the little boy like he was a new discovery. They asked him, “Why were you digging so hard?” The young boy answered, “With all of that manure, there had to be a pony in there somewhere.” The hope in this young boy would never allow him to believe there was no joy to be found in this disgusting pile of possible pony dung.
As I mentioned earlier, it may not be possible to be happy all of the time, but it is possible to have daily joy (brightness/gladness) through hope in someone greater than ourselves. When we seek out, accept, and believe the promises given to us through our Divine source, it is possible to have this joy.
How different things would be if we would always seek to find the pony in life’s fertilizer piles through trusting in the loving-kindness of God.
You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor. (Job 11:18-19)
How To Make Better Choices
“Many of our troubles occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities; culture ("everyone is doing it"), tradition ("we've always done it"), reason ("it seems logical"), or emotion ("it just felt right").”
Rick Warren –
Throughout life’s journey, we have the privilege to make choices. Adults make choices, and children make choices. The ability to choose is part of the freedom that exists within man’s will. God expects mankind to be responsible beings who have been given free will to make decisions.
Sometimes, we make poor choices that lead to consequences we must deal with for the rest of our lives. In fact, some of my personal decisions fall into this category. One of the giant misguided choices made by humans is found at the beginning of the Bible. The first man and woman opted to do exactly what they were told not to do. This reckless disobedience forever changed life for them. Only Divine intervention could cover this disastrous act.
And then there’s Abram’s decision to please Sarai and stop her complaining about being barren. This is one of the trademarks of poor choices. She foolishly gave her maid, Hagar, to Abram. He foolishly accepted. Hagar became pregnant and had a son. Sarah, at ninety-years-old, later became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. He was the son proclaimed by God as the “heir of promise.” (Genesis 16:1-5,15;17:15) Today, the nation of Israel continues to deal with the consequences of the interference of Abraham and Sarah. Thankfully, we can rest assured, the Divine plan will prevail.
With choices come the words yes and no. It is not always easy to say no. Saying yes may feel more comfortable when either facing or avoiding certain sensitive situations or circumstances. We can choose freedom and say no to avoid or resist a negative situation, or we can dive headlong into it and crash and burn.
One of the key choices is how to maintain our physical, spiritual, and emotional health in handling sadness or depression. They often have the potential to show up after certain situations, e.g., broken relationships (including divorce), loss of a friend, relative or spouse, business failures, etc.; the list is endless.
Depression can be like a giant boulder standing in the way of our healing and ability to move forward. In some cases, it may even feel good to wallow in the misery of depression and give ourselves permission to be irritated about what happened to us and what particles of darkness are around us. We express our opinions, murmur, and complain. There is also the tendency to step on an emotional landmine when we compare ourselves to others and focus on what they have. Choosing to think of muddy circumstances as chocolate, reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, is bound to make us laugh.
Key point: Each one of us is a “work in progress.” Unlike a construction project with a firm completion date, the work in us continues throughout our lifetime. Each day is new, and who we were yesterday is not necessarily who we are today. Every choice we make, whether correct or incorrect, equals the opportunity to learn and grow into who God intended us to be. The temptation to resist Divine will and push fast forward because we think He’s not moving quickly enough makes our will the primary goal, depriving us of completeness.
Religious acts or good works are considered worthwhile, but they will not make us complete. The need for money is a reality, but neither will it make us complete. Success, cosmetic enhancements, other people or things, may leave us with a “feel-good moment,” but they won’t make us whole. Focus on making better choices.
The road to making correct choices and leading us to our appointed task and who we truly are is a Divine choice. But this leading means deciding to believe there is a Divine will for each of us. With this belief comes the reward of walking in freedom and peace and totally depending upon Godly counsel for the fulfillment of our personalized “life purpose” as the reward for accepting His choices.