14 July, 2009

It's a Matter of Choice

In my sermon this past Sunday I mentioned how that we so often choose to stay mad, or to carry a grudge, and that there comes a point and time to get over it and look to the future, letting go of the "stuff" that weighs us down. This journey in life is too long with too many mountains and rough roads to traverse for us to carry things with us that weigh us down. Anyway, after the service a group of us went out to eat together and we sent our kids and some of their friends on ahead to get enough seats for us all. After they had already left, some people that were going to go called to tell us that they could not come after all, so we called the kids to change the number. A few minutes later another family decided that they would go, so we called the kids again to change the number. Then we found out someone else was coming... and on it went like 4 times. When we got to the restaraunt there was yet another person who had come that we did not know about, so we were one seat short. We decided to put 4 of the teens at a different table... no biggie, right? Wrong! My wife in her frustration said something to my son about the seating and the battle was on. I'm sitting across the table listening to them go back and forth and when I asked them to stop it, my son jumps on me too. I asked him to just drop it, but he kept going on. I told him that we had it all taken care of, everyone was fine, so let's just enjoy lunch. He continued to go on and on. I tried to ignore it, but he and Libby just kept going back and forth and it was begining to make a scene and everyone was getting edgy. I asked Daniel if he had heard what I had said in my message and he snapped back, "I choose to stay angry!" I asked him what he hoped to accomplish with his anger and this argument and he said, "I know what you said, but right now, I want to stay angry!" I just shook my head and thought how foolish this whole thing was.

Now, the reason I'm sharing this is not to belittle Daniel or my wife. The fact is, we all act this way at times, although we seldom verbalize the fact that we are choosing to stay upset. It may be anger or any number of emotions, but we willing choose to carry needless stuff that will only weigh us down and rob us of our joy. This morning I was thinking about this again and I remembered a story I read some years ago in a devotional book. Allow me to recount it here:

Two men went into the hospital about the same time, having suffered similar heart attacks. One of the men grew depressed and irritable. He felt betrayed by his own body and saw his affliction as a sign of weakness. His attitude was sour and he cursed his fate. The other man took it in stride. He kidded with everyone who came to visit him, and he laughed long and hard during his recovery. He just refused to be brought down by his circumstances. Instead, he occupied his time by cheering up other patients and chatting with the staff. The first man grew weak and frail. The other man left the hospital in good health and resumed his life rather quickly.

The point? The way we face life, the way we choose to approach circumstances and our reaction to them, has a lot to do with how good we will feel about it. If we are negative, then life will be a burden. If we are positive, life will seem like the greatest gift we've ever known. I've discovered that happiness is contagious... it spreads! However, sadness, anger and negativity are all contagious too. When we walk around grouchy and gloomy, we spread a dark cloud over all the people we come in contact with. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
A positive spirit is like a powerful medicine. It has the power to heal. It is so much better to face life with joy than to let life get you down. God gave us this life to enjoy and he blesses us when we embrace it with happiness and contentment. It really is a choice that we all have. We have little control over what life throws at us, but we have absolute control over how we react to it. It's our job to stop grumbling and complaining; to stop being so negative and to control our anger. It is up to us to throw off the junk that weighs us down and steals our joy. Do I have it all together? Not at all; but I am better than I used to be and I am growing. Where anger and depression used to imprison me, I choose to let go of stuff, shake it off and move on. I choose joy, for the joy that comes in serving Jesus Christ is my strength.

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