Sometimes God takes me back to kindergarten, spiritually speaking. I spend time reading theological treatises, but I sometimes forget the most basic and simple of truths. Here’s one of those basic truths I sometimes struggle with: We choose our attitudes.
We don’t choose our circumstances. We don’t choose the weather, the direction of the economy, what people around us will do, or the direction of world events. If we could choose our circumstances, we would avoid discomfort every time, and in doing so, we would miss out on some amazing opportunities for growth. So we don’t get to choose our situation, but we do get to choose our attitudes.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8 NIV
In other words, focus your thinking on better alternatives. Here are at least four attitudes we get to choose:
I Can Choose Confidence In Spite of My Circumstances
My situation might stink, but God always alive, awake, actively working, and attentive to my situation. He saw it coming. He’s fully prepared. He wants to grow me through it and He’s on my side. Those are little truths to throw in the face of the enemy when he plants seeds of doubt. If God is for us (and we know He is) then who or what can possibly be against us?
I Can Choose to Be Positive In Spite of Criticism
Anyone who has ever had any influence on their surrounding culture has endured criticism. And often that criticism comes from the circles of people from whom we would least expect it. But criticism doesn’t have to defeat us. We should draw out of criticism anything that might be true and use it to our advantage. Everything else, we should throw at the feet of Jesus and turn our desire to be defensive over to Him (this is one of my biggest struggles). And we should be tenacious and stubborn enough to keep pressing toward God’s goal for us regardless of what others might say.
I Can Be Hopeful When Nothing Seems Certain
Some of the toughest times we go through aren’t necessarily times of deep loss, but rather are times of waiting, times of uncertainty and unrest. When our presumed reality seems to be threatened and the positive things we were counting on seem to fall through, we can still be hopeful. God’s goal for us doesn’t change. He still intends to shape us into the image of Christ. He’s still going to return in absolute victory someday. He’s still causing us to be more than conquerors through Christ.
I Can Choose to Be Content with Christ Alone
Of the four choices I’m mentioning, this one is by far the toughest. In fact, it really takes a lifetime for us to get this one down. Being content with Christ alone is a difficult attitude to gauge in our western culture because we have so much more than Jesus. I have a family, a home, two cars, food on the table, cable television, air conditioning, and gadgets galore. Will I ever know if I would truly be content with Christ alone? I’m not sure, but what I can do is walk in this attitude on a daily basis when deals fall through, when people let me down, when losses come. I can practice the discipline of saying “Jesus, You are enough. If all I have is You, I’m okay.” Contentment boils down to accepting with gratitude whatever God has in mind for us, surrendering our own idea of what is necessary in exchange for His idea of it.
These are tough. Adopting healthy attitudes is a daily discipline that requires our enjoying time with God in prayer, yielding to others, and cultivating thoughts of gratitude for God’s grace. Regardless of the size of the challenge, I know that all of these attitudes are possible because they are all commanded and exemplified in Scripture.
So choose wisely.