I am prone to negativity. When my tongue is unrestrained it lends itself to complaining, biting sarcasm, and criticism. How’s that for a dose of honesty? Similarly, my thoughts can easily meander down the same pessimistic path. I’ve needed to fess up to this less-than-Christlike attitude and confess it for what it is: sin. I am prayerfully working on changing my perspective. Decades of pessimistic practice have made this a hard habit to kick. But I am thankful that the Lord has opened my eyes to it and given me the opportunity to change.
I find that when you prayerfully ask the Lord to help you put off an old way and replace it with a new, more Christ-like way, He’ll provide plenty of opportunities for practice. Sometimes it’s not the practice we want. We simply want change to occur without the practice part. We want a snap-of-the-finger kind of change. A wake-up-the-next-morning-and-be transformed kind of change. Yet, most often, this is not God’s recipe for true and lasting change.
Ever pray for patience? Ever sorry that you did?
God has been faithful and has provided me with plenty of opportunities for practice in this area. He’s given me the opportunity to choose between searching for the silver lining in situations or the dark stained mire.
Back in November my oldest son accepted a seasonal job in a neighboring town about 15 minutes away from our home. The business was located on a major highway not far from a very large mall. Most days my son needed to arrive at work between 4:30 – 5:00. Rush hour. Traffic. Dinnertime. Christmas shoppers. That’s all that I could think of. I honestly was not looking forward to the back and forth. It was just one more thing added to an already busy day, at a time where my day was supposed to be winding down from school.
On my son’s first night of work, we drove past a small, local airport and were greeted with the most spectacular sunset. Both of us were taken back by its beauty. Normally at home, sunsets are obstructed by trees and homes, allowing us to only catch a small glimpse. Yet the openness of this airport allowed us to absorb the radiant beauty. What a blessing!
You know what? This scenario repeated itself nearly every evening that my son needed to work. Each sunset seemed more splendid and glorious than the one before Each opportunity for alone time with my son grew sweeter. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the Lord was providing the opportunity for me to make a choice: focus on the craziness or find the silver lining. I opted for the silver lining.
My husband is an early riser, not by choice, but by necessity. His work day begins at 6:00am, so he is up at 5:00 and out the door by 5:45. I am not a morning person, but for the nearly 22 years of our marriage, the Lord has prompted me to get up with my husband each morning. Take my word for it, it’s not always pretty. Messy hair, morning breath, and mumbled words usually are the norm. I know that my husband appreciates a smiling face, a shared prayer, and a hug and kiss goodbye. Those early morning wake up calls are worth it.
Sometimes in the dead of winter I have a really difficult time getting out of bed that early. It is so dark and so cold. The warmth of the comforter and the magnetic pull of the snooze button call to me. I resist, and I get up.
One morning after my husband had left for work, I stood zombified in my kitchen, staring aimlessly out the backdoor. I was greeted with a beautiful painted sky full of reds and pinks; it was simply gorgeous. I began to wonder how many of these brilliant displays I had missed because I was too busy focusing on my fatigue. So each morning I made it a point to watch out my back door to see what beauty the Lord would reveal. Nearly each morning I realized that there was beauty to enjoy: a colorful sunrise, the peaceful silence of falling snow, the calling of a bird, even a lunar eclipse – all things I would have missed had I been asleep. The Lord was providing me with opportunities to shift my focus. Would I continue to focus on my tired state or would I find the silver lining? I opted for the silver lining.
My mother has dementia and is no longer able to stay by herself during the day. My brother, her primary care provider, and I discussed our options. We concluded that it would be best if I pick my mom up from my brother’s place of employment each weekday morning and have her spend the day with the boys and me. This new set up meant no more breakfasts with my boys, a late start to school, and the potential for major disruptions during the day. My mom and I have history, and our relationship through the years has been strained. While I’ve worked through these issues, I am still keenly aware of her tendencies. In my heart I knew what needed to be done, but in all honesty, I did some silent kicking and screaming.
Each morning I make the one-hour, round trip drive to meet my brother, pick up mom, and head back home. Driving alone has always been a much coveted time. Those rare solitary drives give me time to think and pray uninterrupted. After a few days of making the drive to pick up mom, I began to realize that the Lord had just offered up a daily invitation to spend time with Him each morning. So now most mornings I spend my 30 minute drive talking to my Heavenly Father. Uninterrupted. Quiet. Meaningful prayer time. So again, the Lord provided me with a choice: complain each morning or find the silver lining. I’ve opted for the silver lining.
I don’t always opt for the silver lining. Sometimes the silver lining is not easy to see because the mire can be thick and the pull toward negativity so strong. But the Lord has shown me that when we let negativity be pervasive throughout our lives, we allow satan to dictate our day, not Him. We allow opportunities for growth to be thrown to the wayside. We perfume the atmosphere with a stench that affects all those around us, pulling them down into the mire alongside of us. We become the darkness not the light that we as Christians are called to be.
Is negativity a problem for you? Find yourself complaining, griping, and criticizing on a regular basis? I would encourage you to bring this before the Lord in prayer. Pray that He will allow you to see this tendency for what it is: sin and a tool of satan to drag you down. The Lord has far greater plans for you, and with His help, you can change.
Here are a few verses that serve as both reminders and encouragement to me:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Philippians 2:14 – 16
Do everything without grumbling or arguing…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life