I have been doing this really wonderful Bible study with a group of women from my church. It is called "Stuck" by Jennie Allen. This week the chapter is on sadness. She asked a question: "What gets you down most consistently?" Do you know what my answer is?
My own crappy attitude.
I mean, too often I find myself grumpy, snapping at my kids and husband. Or I am discontent with my body/clothes/house/whatever. Sometimes I let worry take over and I find myself sinking into a pit of stress. Yesterday, I was driving in Baltimore, and for various reasons I suddenly found myself a shaking ball of stress and tears. But the reality is that NONE of the reasons were enough for to lose my head like that. I drove down 895 crying and stressing and slowly realizing that I had again succumbed to my own bad attitude.
I have had a number of revelations in my life about my emotions:
1) Emotions are ok. They are not inherently bad. They simply are.
2) We choose how to respond to our emotions. That is where the sin and grace and righteousness live.
Now, this sounds simple, but really it isn't. Because if we have trauma, bad habits, family history, confusion, lack of self-awareness, etc., then choosing how to respond to our emotions is hard, if not nearly impossible. It takes a lot of healing work to see our emotions clearly and know how to deal with them. I spent a number of years learning how to do this, with help from a mentor, professional counselor, and good friends.
But here's the thing. I did years of hard work learning how to make good choices when my emotions get crazy, and I STILL make bad choices too often. It saddens me. I want my daughters to learn how to be emotionally and spiritually healthy, but then I fail to lead by example, day after day. Too often I choose to let my irritation snowball into anger. Too often I let my tiredness excuse my petulance. Too often I let my need for control lead me to worry and stress.
I don't remember the exact wording, but last week my discussion question at Bible study was something like: "Are you a peaceful person or a frazzled person?" Oh, readers, I want to be that peaceful person! I want to be so trusting in God and so disciplined in my own heart, that I rarely give in to those negative thought patterns. Because ultimately, it is a choice.
Will I choose worry or believe that God is in control?
Will I choose irritability or pour out the grace that God has shown me?
Will I choose discontentment or count my many blessings?
Will I choose to rise to an insult or let God be my defender?
Will I choose the attitudes that bring life or the attitudes that bring death?
I am not that peaceful person yet. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I have grace and joy and thankfulness and love. But too often I let the enemy and my own sinful heart rule me. Thank God for grace.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
Galatians 5:22-25 NLT