Do Your Circumstances Determine Your Attitude?

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Do you ever let your circumstances determine your attitude? I think we all do that from time to time. However, Monday, I really did that in a bad way. I got really angry, hurt and bitter over something that, while upsetting, did not, by any stretch of the imagination, demand the control over my attitude that I gave it. God reminded me of that last night. As a matter of fact, I think the back of my head is still stinging from where He whacked me over the head.

In addition to A Woman’s Walk with God and The Power of a Praying Wife, I’m also reading (very slowly, for our church’s small group meeting) In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. We’ve missed several small group meetings and me, being the dedicated small group meeting member that I am, didn’t read the chapters for the meetings we missed.

Did I mention before how I’ve been noticing the way God orchestrates the details of my life?

Yeah, I thought I did. It turns out that there have been some weeks where our meeting was cancelled or not many people showed up, so we decided to have a catch up week and I found myself reading the fairly infamous (among our small group folks, anyway) Chapter Four. I think, in most people’s books, it says something like:

Chapter 4

The Art of Reframing

In my book, it says:

Chapter 4

Wherein God Smacks Kris in the Back of the Head with This Book

See, this chapter is all about how you look at problems and adversity. I read the first half a few days ago. Then, probably according to God’s plan for me, I put it down for a few days. So, it worked out that I was reading the part that I really, really needed to hear last night. Actually, I could have stood to have read it Monday, but Monday I was too busy letting me circumstances determine my attitude –  or, as author Mark Batterson says, I was “zoomed in on [my] problem” and was “fixating on something I don’t like about myself or someone else (ding, ding, ding!) or my circumstances. And, nine times out of ten, the solution is zooming out so that I can get some perspective.”

Of course, therein lay the problem. I didn’t want to zoom out and get some perspective. I just wanted to be angry, hurt and bitter. So, what do you do when that’s the case?

Well, according to the two books I read last night that were both on essentially the same subject (Okay, God. I think. I get. The point.), what you do when you’re letting your circumstances determine your attitude is you give God a sacrifice of praise.

Yep, that’s it. It’s that simple. As Pastor Batterson says, you, “don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God.”

That’s pretty much the same thing that Elizabeth George says in A Woman’s Walk with God in the chapter on joy. Joy isn’t a feeling of happiness, it’s “the result of choosing to look beyond what appears to be true in our life to what is true about our life in Christ.”

Batterson points out that without bad days, there would be no good days, only “days.” Without sickness, we couldn’t fully appreciate health. Without failure, we can’t appreciate success.

Ms. George points out that “with the sacrifice of praise, the very hindrances to our joy become the soil out of which joy blossoms.”

Both authors pointed out that it is from our own afflictions and problems that we learn to comfort and minister to others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Then, there was the kicker. Ms. George asked what it was that was causing you, the reader, the greatest grief today. Then, she listed some possibilities. The thing that was causing my anger, my hurt, my bitterness, was there! The tiny, minuscule thing that is bothering me, the pea under my pile of mattresses, was listed there! I mean, she’d listed all the major things – physical affliction, a broken home, a terminal illness. Then, there was my grief of relative unimportance – a difficult season as a [insert familial relationship here]

That’s all it is. A difficult season with a relative. But God cares about that. He loves me enough that, eight years ago, when Elizabeth George wrote this book that’s been sitting in a drawer for three or four years, unread, He led her to include “a difficult season as a [relationship]” on page 56. Just one sentence. To remind me that He cares for me even when I feel like no one else in the world does. God does.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

And, all I have to do is offer Him a sacrifice of praise. All I have to do is quit letting what’s wrong with me keep me from worshiping what’s right with God.

I think Chuck Swindoll said it best:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

Could you please remind me of that the next time I’m feeling like I felt on Monday?

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  1. I really missed lunch today – I could have used it. It’s been one of those days.

    I should probably be on the lookout for God to whack me on the back of the head too. I think I need it.

    There are a couple of Elizabeth George books unread on my shelf. Her books I have read have always really ministered to me. Maybe I should grab those dusty ones and see what i can get from them tonight!

  2. Kris,

    Good things to think about here. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this.

    I’ve got welts on the back of my head from God’s disciplining moments. (My mom always said, “God does not punish his children, He disciplines them.” Geesh, no doubt.

    What particularly struck me from your post was two things:

    1. Your description of joy. I used to think it was akin to happiness, but after reading C.S. Lewis, I realized that joy is something untouchable, in a sense, for it is like God’s gift in our soul. The gift of our faith, the love that Jesus has for us, is reason for our joy. And it is there within us. When we are aware of it, then the other parts of life … lack the power to dominate too much of our thoughts. We’re attentive to the joy of Christ inside us. So, the hardships, though they affect us, lack the power to destroy us. Know what I mean?

    2. I feel so deeply for your problems with a relative. Did I mention this before? I have a one-sided problem with a relative. (She is indifferent to me, so she doesn’t care. Easy for her! LOL) This person is semi-regularly in my life, and I’ve had a very hard time in the past accepting these exceedingly strange behaviors she has as well as her way of communicating. It’s very bizarre and aloof. Yet, I still have this person in my life. I’ve struggled so deeply in the past with this person, tried to make her like me, tried to get close to her, tried to make her give a whit about me. But she has not. Or does not in any way that I can see.

    Yet through time, I’ve started to realize that this person is really incapable of being who I want her to be. And then I realized I had to let her be herself. Unfortunately, the person that she is means someone who doesn’t care for me. But then I had to really just think that God cares for her. She’s God’s kid. And so I should be courteous and kind, but not let her cold attitude hurt me. It goes back to the fact that God’s joy is everything. I had to learn not to give this person so much power over me.

    I still don’t get this person, but I am trying very hard to remember to live by the prayer of St. Francis. Particularly the line about wanting to love more than to be loved.

    But, oh, relatives can be such tricky things. I will pray for you, my friend.

  3. I have came to your blog a few times this week: Everytime I come this first sentence jumps out at me!

    “Do you ever let your circumstances determine your attitude”

    Really something for me to ponder on. Ok! That is something hard to chew cause that is me most of the time. I need to work on my attitude alot!

    Great Post!

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