The first two attitudes I covered were Assume the Best and Be Gracious. In this last entry of this series, I’m attempting to share what I believe is only possible for people of faith. In the previous two entries, I’ve said:

As a follower of Jesus and a preacher, I could supply biblical foundations for each of the attitudes in this series and explain how they reflect the character of Christ. I’m not going to, however. It would make the entries a bit longer, and if you’re really interested, just leave a comment, and I’ll respond there.

However, it’s my conviction that true joy is only available for people who have placed their hearts in the hands of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Read on for what I hope is both encouraging to those of you who are believers and appealing to those of you who aren’t.

Let’s say you’ve assumed the best about someone or a situation and then as time has passed, you’ve realized that you needed to address a real, significant issue. You can no longer assume the best, and so you shifted into being gracious. You attempted to address it with humility and loving truthfulness. It didn’t go so well. Or let’s so that people aren’t involved. It’s just a situation in which you are left feeling powerless and hopeless to change.

What do you do when it’s quiet? When you’re sitting in your living room, and you realize that while you have tried to take the high road, your mind and heart are racing, and behind the scenes, you’re simply… struggling. Things haven’t work out like you’d hoped or wanted. You can feel the bitterness attempting to find fertile soil in your heart to grow into a patch of thorns. You sense the sadness within you attempting to suffocate your soul.

What do you do in these moments? When you’ve responded well relationally, but personally, you realize that more work needs to be done to curb negative emotions and resentment – whether against people or even God (due to circumstances that simply refuse to work out).

Choose Joy

Last February I wrote a post that centered on this theme. In it, I said:

So what do you do when you don’t feel joyful? You press on. You dig deep. You look up. And you trust God. Circumstances (like possibly having a remote starter) might make me feel happy, but only truth breeds joy. In moments of grief, confusion or anxiety, we must choose what’s true in order to experience joy.

We see ordinary people choosing joy in the Bible all the time. Their example both encourages us to do the same and shows us that it can be done.

Paul chose to sing while in prison. (Acts 16.25) Daniel trusted in the lions’ den. (Daniel 6.23) J In the book of Haggai, the returning Jewish exiles realized that their attempt to rebuild their temple fell far short of the glory of Solomon’s temple. Yet, they were told by God, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former. And in this place I will give peace.” (Haggai 2.9) The apostles rejoiced when beaten, thankful that they’d been counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. The list goes on.

One common theme about those who choose to choose joy? They are future-focused instead of past-paralyzed. It’s the only way that one can truly “count it all joy.” (James 1.2) Those who are able to choose/embrace/seek joy are only able to do so because they look beyond their current hurts, disappointments or betrayals.

What do I mean by choosing joy?

The phrase choosing joy may need some amplification. I don’t mean that we can simply shift into a positive emotion in spite of external relationships or circumstances. Choosing joy means that we recognize that our current situation is not the final word. It will not sink us or define us. Rather, if we look through rather than at our circumstances, we may see that Jesus is inviting us to a higher level of living. It is He who is our ultimate model.

“..looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who 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)

He too chose to look through. He was motivated by joy. The cross was a means to an end. The end was His eternal reunion with the Father and the forgiveness of our sins. He saw that disappointments, hurts, betrayals and crosses are temporary. Trusting in God for an assured future produces joy.

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30.5)

When we choose joy, we decide what we think about. “Change your mind; change your life” is a message that psychiatrists promote (and sell books with). It rings true. Because it’s borrowed trust from scripture:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4.8)

Choosing joy is a mental exercise in which you submit your cares to God (1 Peter 5.8) and actively trust Him for your help, deliverance and future. It’s changing your thought life, one thought at a time. It’s embracing confidence in God. It’s deeply spiritual and only possible by faith.

What happens when we choose joy?

Short and simple… people notice you. A joyful person is a peculiar person. A joyful person attracts attention because when everyone else is moaning about their circumstances, a joyful person is singing in prison.

Finally, a joyful person also deflects attention. They know that joy is not something they muster up but something they experience as the fruit of a life rooted in trusting God. (Galatians 5.22) Joyful people point to Jesus as the source of their joy.

Wrap-Up

These three attitudes have made a huge difference in how I process difficult situations, relate with difficult people and release disappointment when life just won’t cooperate with my expectations.

  1. Assume the best.
  2. Be gracious.
  3. Choose joy.

Which one is the most challenging for you? Which is the most encouraging?

Also in Three Attitudes That Will Change Your Life

  1. Three attitudes that will change your life: Assume the best
  2. Three attitudes that will change your life: Be gracious
  3. Three attitudes that will change your life: Choose joy

View the entire series

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