My brother-in-law experiences great joy by climbing big mountains. For me, climbing a mountain would cause great misery. Those facts alone reveal an important life principle: we decide what makes us miserable.
Of course, there are some things in life that would produce misery for anyone. Torture and the death of a loved one immediately come to mind. These kinds of exceptions are few however. Mostly, misery is caused by experiencing something I do not want to experience. Often, though, as I showed above, what makes me miserable may not bother the guy next to me.
Most of the misery that many of us experience is this kind of misery. The kind where what does not bother others makes me miserable. For example, I may be impatient regarding a slow moving grocery line, but the person next to me is unaffected or even cheery. That difference has fascinated me for some time now.
This kind of misery does not feel like a choice, but it is. We can set our internal misery thermostat to kick-in at any threshold we choose. Any person can choose to be accepting or rejecting of life’s difficulties. We can choose to appreciate what we have or bemoan what we lack.
Imagine a circle that reflects how you think life should be. When life fits in your circle, you are happy. When life falls outside your circle, you experience misery. This is the way we are designed. Negative people have too narrow of circles where much of normal life falls outside their circles. Positive people have a broader circle where the normal difficulties of life still fit within the circle.
Negative people rush around trying to convince others to perform within their narrow circles. They come across as demanding and controlling. Positive people are much more likely to let life be what it is and adjust their circles enough to remain content amidst the storms.
One of the most practical benefits of a personal relationship with the Lord is the discovery that He planned my days (Psalm 139:16). This tells me that whatever I am facing today was a planned part of my journey. Moreover, it was planned for my good (Roman 8:28). These facts allow me to go with the flow with minimal anxiety. They allow me to enlarge my circle greatly.
Here at UGM of Salem, when we witness men and women “get” the love of God, it is a rich reward. Watching as they move from anxious to content, and from controlling to flexible, is truly one of the many wonderful aspects of this ministry. This transformation is a key turning point that tells us when a client is likely to “make it.”
It is not just about positive thinking. It is about seeing the world through the eyes of God. That shift allows us to broaden our circle enough to find joy even in difficult trials (James 1:2). Accepting disappointment is easier when we know there is a plan being worked out.