It's Your Own Choice

by Eric Kreye

Dr. Victor Frankel, a Jewish physician, became a prisoner of the Nazis in the early 1940s. They took away all his personal things, shaved his head, then tortured him, and killed his family in his presence.

Dr. Frankel determined that whatever else they took from him, they could never take his choice of attitude. The days and weeks and months which followed were filled with humiliation, torture, anything that would take away his human dignity. But Dr. Frankel stuck to his choice and would not allow circumstances to control his life, however difficult.

Someone said that 10 percent of life is made up of what happens to us, and 90 percent how we react to what happens.

Almost every day something happens that could upset us. We ruin something by spilling, we damage the car, the garbage disposal jams, the kids are late for appointments, flood water fills the basement, or it could be something as simple as being held up in a bumper to bumper traffic jam!

We could choose to react to such circumstances with a negative attitude.

Attitudes can affect how we relate to circumstances, to people around us, how we feel about ourselves, and even our physical well-being!

Norman Cousins, in his book Anatomy of an Illness, shares what he learned about the importance of attitude. Admitted to the hospital with a serious sickness, he recalled information about negative emotions and how they can affect one's health. If this were true, then why wouldn't positive emotions help bring about healing as well?

From that very moment Cousins refused to dwell on the negative thoughts of his illness, and instead occupied himself with positive things. He recovered fully.

Now, things may not always turn out that way, but research confirms that positive attitudes help the body release certain chemicals that contribute to the healing process and therefore well-being.

The Bible says this about the positive and the negative:

"A merry heart makes a cheerful
but by sorrow of the heart
the spirit is broken."
--Proverbs 15:13

Scripture also makes this prediction:

"He who is of a merry heart
has a continual feast."
--Proverbs 15:15

One way we can respond to the various
circumstances of life is to indulge in self-pity
and feel sorry for ourselves.

Remember the difficulties of Job in the Old Testament? Webster's definition of self-pity is: "A self-indulgent dwelling on one's own sorrows or misfortunes." Did Job come close to feeling sorry for himself? At one point he said, "Why was I ever born? Or why didn't I die when I was born? Life is only misery and trouble." He focused on his sorrows and misfortunes. (See Job 3.)

Fortunately, we are told that Job eventually made the choice to lift his eyes to God and trust Him completely. When he caught a glimpse of his Creator, he repented. He could then say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).

It is also easy to indulge in an
attitude of discouragement and defeat.

What about Elijah when Jezebel was out to get him? From his mountain top experience, he lost his hold on God and fell into the valley of discouragement. He ran for his life! He felt certain that he was the only surviving servant of God. He ran and ran, until he found himself alone in a cave, with no human support. It was then that God spoke to him in a quiet but very distinct voice, directing him to a positive fact, "You're not alone, Elijah. I have 7,000 others who love Me." Elijah believed God, he was filled with renewed courage, and immediately he left and did what God asked him to do. (See 1 Kings 19.)

Another attitude so often seen
in response to negative circumstances
is bitterness and anger.

Do you remember the experience of Jonah? The people of Nineveh heard him preach and took his warning seriously. They immediately repented of their evil.

God in His great mercy accepted their sincere repentance and determined that He would not destroy them. But Jonah was upset. He was angry because the prophecy he had preached was not fulfilled. He knew the people would ridicule him and call him a false prophet. That's why he didn't want to come to Nineveh in the first place! He allowed his mind to dwell on what people would think of him, and the more he thought about it, the more bitterness filled his heart. (See Jonah 3 and 4.) He reached the point where he would rather die than see the city spared!

Nevertheless, God in His great love directed Jonah away from his bitterness and anger to think of the positive result of his preaching--and the saving of hundreds of thousands of condemned people.

What a contrast is the young Joseph, who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his own brothers. That experience could have filled him with resentment and bitterness. Instead, Joseph determined to love God and keep his thoughts centered on Him.

What was the result? Even when he was wrongfully accused and cast into prison, he chose to help those around him. Later, when the butler forgot his promise and Joseph had to remain in prison two more long years, he continued his kindness. When he was finally exalted to a high position, next to Pharaoh himself, an opportunity came to him to repay his brothers for their evil intentions toward him. But instead his thoughts and actions were not of retaliation but rather a spirit of love and kindness.

Joseph lived out the principle described in Hebrews 12:14, 15:

"Pursue peace with all men,
and holiness,
without which no one will see the Lord;
looking diligently lest anyone
fall short of the grace of God;
lest any root of bitterness
springing up cause trouble,
and by this many become defiled."

An attitude of bitterness, cherished in the heart, separates us from God.

We can choose to let circumstances
get us down, or with God's help,
we can choose the positive.

While this might not do anything to change our particular burden or circumstance, we are brought to the realization that dwelling on negatives doesn't change things either.

There is a dedicated nurse in a certain hospital who constantly gives herself to her patients in a positive, nurturing, and uplifting way. She gives happiness, joy, and hope to them while they are in the process of recovering. Observing her cheerful attitude one would never know of the suffering in her own personal life. Her son was in and out of drug rehabilitation, taking the family through years of tremendous trauma. Finally he died of a drug overdose. Yet this sweet nurse has chosen to continue to give love, care and a positive touch to everyone who knows her.

How can a person hang on to that deep sense of peace and happiness, even when life situations reach into the depth of despair? Here are some ideas:

1. Remind yourself that God loves YOU
and He is vitally interested in the
circumstances of your daily living.

God made this beautiful promise to every one of us:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name,
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters
I will be with you;
and through the rivers,
they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire
you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
your Savior...
you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you."
--Isaiah 43:1-4

2. Claim Bible promises that speak
to your specific needs.

When fearful, claim 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear...."

When you have financial difficulty, repeat Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

When you need wisdom, God has an abundant supply. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him" (James 1:5).

God indeed has a thousand ways to supply your every need, and He will never let you down!

3. Choose friends wisely--they can encourage you and lift you up, or their negative thinking rubs off on you and leads you into discouragement.

Job's friends didn't help him much in a positive way, did they?

4. Ask God to help you control your thoughts.

The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to "Fix your minds on whatever is true and honourable and just and pure and lovely and admirable" (Philippians 4:8).

5. Cultivate a grateful heart.

Ephesians 5:19, 20 says: "Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father."

If singing doesn't come easy, you can still have melody in your heart! Praises and thankfulness are music to God's ears. The apostle Paul was right when he wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). And what were his circumstances when he wrote this? He was in prison, faced with an uncertain future. He did not know if his trial would end in death or in life. And still throughout this letter the words "joy" and "rejoice" surface again and again.

6. Finally, never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, this gift is available to you just for the asking.

Positive or negative--it's your choice!

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