For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7)When I hit rock bottom in my struggle against panic attacks, I spent a lot of futile moments asking God why.
"Why did this happen to me?"
"Why am I so unhappy?"
"How can I ever get over this??"
It's not that God didn't want to answer my questions, because at a later date He did, but at that moment in time I wasn't at a point to receive them. All I had figured out was that I was incredibly depressed. I was confused, sad, and in a word, miserable.
Think for a moment of a similar situation in your life. Perhaps it is not an illness that you struggle against; maybe it is a situation at work. The boss has asked you to do something or to work with someone that makes you extremely uncomfortable. Maybe it's a family issue bringing in chaos. Sometimes relatives can be the hardest people to be around, the obligation to them being so much stronger. At the heart of it all, you are in the same spot I was, you don't have answers to all the "whys" you just know you feel angry and frustrated.
I have good news for you! God lifted me out of that dark place, and He will do the same for you. After all, God is in the "saving" business! Through many hours spent in prayer, study, and worship, God answered my questions, and today I am totally free! Yet, I have to say, the words God spoke to me then I take very seriously. I believe His answers to my questions were primarily given to prevent myself from ever being at that point again. There in an oft-quoted saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The answers I received were meant as a prevention.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)Proverbs 23:7 tells us what we have in our heart is what we will become. Part of the answer to my conundrum came when I realized what I had been thinking about. I had spent years mulling over the hatred I felt for other people's actions. I did not forgive, and I certainly did not forget. I allowed a "root of bitterness" to grow in my life.* I also wasted a lot of time being afraid, planning for things to go wrong, for failures to happen to me. Instead of meditating on the "things" of Philippians 4:8, my feelings consumed my thoughts. As a result, without my realizing it, I gradually became all the things I didn't want to be.
Notice that my desire to not become those things, to not be afraid, or angry, or miserable, was not enough on its own. I never set out to become fearful, depressed, or bitter. I desired freedom. I wanted to be "filled with joy and peace, abounding in hope."** Being at the bottom, and now being no longer at the bottom, changed me. My greatest desire today is to never "go back there" again. My daily goal is to do whatever the Lord tells me to do in order to prevent my ever having to return.
I reached a point in my struggle where I knew it was entirely up to me. I could stay where I was, meditating on all those wrong thoughts, or I could change my thought processes.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)Ask yourself right now if you are as willing to change as I was. Are you as dedicated to the solution? Now ask yourself these questions. Do you go into a situation always prepared for something to go wrong? Have you in advance decided your circumstance will fail? Do you make a habit out of looking for mistakes in everyone and everything? Do you show up prepared to be unhappy and upset?
The Lord showed me that only person I can change when the things in my life are messed up, is myself. I can't take away the time someone hurt my feelings, but I can refuse to think on it constantly. I can't prevent others from stepping on my toes in the future, but I can determine to forgive and forget. The "ounce of prevention" comes when I walk in the love God He has told me to walk in. In advance of any situation, no matter what person I have to deal with, no matter how angry I am, or how badly it hurts, my joy in Christ remains when I adjust my attitude.
Today's society is always prepared to defend itself. We think we have all these "rights". The truth is we don't. We are told to be servants to all, as Jesus was.*** We are told to "love one another." ****
I like the thoughts we find in James 3. This entire chapter talks about controlling our speech, and it compares the two sides of the tongue, both its ability to bless people and to curse them. But look at verses 17-18.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)Our actions are to be planted first, before anything else, and for no other reason, than a peace.This is where you will ultimately find the "joy of salvation." ***** Joy is found in peace. When I, through God's Word and presence turn my life over to Him and adjust my attitude, when I come "willing to yield" to whatever the task is or whomever the person might be, then I will look up one day and realize how marvelously happy I am.
Much of my time was wasted being angry, and I still make mistakes today where my attitude is concerned. The difference is now I repent and ask for forgiveness. Instead of praying, "God change them," I pray, "God change ME." If I can change, then my joy will return. That is something God and I together can fix, and I like it much better!
*Hebrews 12:15 ** Romans 15:13 *** Matthew 20:27 **** John 13:35 ***** Psalm 51:12; Habbakuk 3:18
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.