I Choose Joy.
When the question was asked on Sunday – how do you deal? – I answered almost immediately, saying this: You have to make the decision to have a positive attitude. It doesn’t just happen on its own, you have to make a conscious choice.I’ve shared about the problems I’ve dealt with, which have had the effect of producing a general discontentment and dashing my joy right into the ground. Something else that can steal your joy is fear, and I am a pretty fearful person. Anyone who knows me well can back me up on this: I am the world’s biggest worrywart. I get nervous very easily, and if I don’t have anything to be afraid of, my imagination will invent something. I know worry is a sin, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to shake it. I worry a lot that my future plans won’t pan out, or that I won’t get the things I want most, the things I dream of. Constantly thinking about the what-ifs and things that may or may not happen is exhausting and depressing. And I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling this way. I can’t stand being unhappy, hate to argue and fight, always want to get rid of unpleasant feelings as soon as possible. Some people seem to enjoy wallowing in their misery, but I don’t. So when I need to, I make the choice to be happy and work to reclaim my joy. Everyone has different ways of doing things and what works for me may not necessarily work for you, but here’s how I do it.
First I give myself a little pep talk. Usually my imagination is telling me that a situation is much worse than it actually is – or even at times inventing a problem where there is none – so I sit myself down and tell me that whatever isn’t true, isn’t true. Basically, it’s the mental equivalent of giving myself a slap across the face and telling myself to stop being ridiculous.
My inner joy comes from a relationship with God, so the next thing I do is have a good talk with Him. I tell Him what’s bothering me – although of course He already knows – and ask forgiveness for my fretting and worrying and not trusting. Then I think about all the things that have gone right for me, all the things I’ve wanted and gotten: even though it sounds corny, I count my blessings. I thank God for everything He has given me, and when counted, these far outnumber the things I haven’t gotten. When I think about this, when I stop and think of all the things that I take for granted but that really are gifts – things like waking up in the morning, being able to care for myself, the warm bed I’ve just slept in and food for breakfast – I feel very humbled. It makes me wonder, why am I working myself into such a state over one little thing that didn’t go my way? Why am I inventing a problem for myself instead of focusing on something good? Why am I worrying about something in the future when I can’t do anything about it anyway? When I’ve thanked God for all these things, I ask Him to help me to be content with and grateful for what I have now, and to help me trust that He loves me and will take care of me no matter what happens.
Usually then the best thing for me to do is avoid being alone for a while, since loneliness has been such a big problem lately. I find a friend to talk to, if I can; if I can’t, I’ll go find something to do with my sister or sit and watch TV, read, or knit with my parents. If I’m by myself, I find some job to do to keep myself busy and turn on some praise music. If I’m in the right mood, this is sometimes a good opportunity to write, too.
But anyway, back to the subject at hand. Everyone has to do whatever will best help them, but the point here is that you have to make a decision to have a good attitude. Bad things are going to happen, we’re going to be disappointed, people are going to hurt us and we’re going to be denied things we want. It’s only natural to be sad, angry, or disappointed at these times, but you don’t have to stay that way. It isn’t easy and it takes some effort, but the important thing is that it works. If you’re upset or find yourself having a bad attitude and you don’t like it, choose to change it. Choose joy.