Whether financial, relational or personal, life is full of challenges that can make it really hard to see the positive. When our careers aren’t going as well as we’d hoped, when there’s chaos at home, when people we love walk out on us, and when our health starts to fail, it’s sometimes impossible to see the good in the situation.
But no matter what life throws at us, it’s our attitude that defines us. Our attitude is the stance we take on life, our viewpoint of different situations, and determines how we think, feel and react.
Winston Churchill got it totally right when he said:
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Someone with a good attitude can enjoy life even when things aren’t going to plan, and we all know people who manage to be negative even when, objectively, their life is good. Which of these people do you recognise in yourself?
What we often miss is that it’s up to us to decide whether we’re a pessimist or an optimist. We tend to think that our propensity to see the good in a situation is fixed – a part of our personality or upbringing, something we’ve inherited from our Gran or something that grew out of all those bad things we went through. ‘I’m a pessimist, it’s how I’ve always been.’
But we can’t afford to think like that. The truth is your Gran isn’t in control of your mind. You are, and a lot of the time it’s the only thing you can control! You attitude can be negative or positive, and guess what? You can choose for it to be positive. No matter the circumstance, it’s up to us to decide how we choose to view it. We have to learn to see good.
Everything in life has positives and negatives, and while in many situations it is much easier to spot the negatives, the complex and contrary nature of life means there’s always a bright side. Even when the glass is half empty, you still have something to drink. In every situation, there is good. In every person, there is good. Sometimes it’s not easy to see, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit looking. It’s time to look harder.
There are few stories in the Bible that don’t involve someone going through something nasty at some point. But the thing that unites those Bible heroes is that their joy and confidence in God doesn’t diminish in the face of trouble. If anything, it’s strengthened.
Look at Joseph – sold into slavery by his own brothers and eventually imprisoned, he remained positive and God blessed him abundantly. Not only that, but God used those events to bring him to a place where he could save his family from starvation.
Think of Daniel – held captive in a foreign land and threatened with death for his faith, he wouldn’t stop praising God. Unharmed by a den of lions, Daniel ended up restored to his former high position.
And then there’s David – when faced with a giant, he had utter confidence that God would come through for him: “This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17).
Did these people thrive in their personal times of trouble because they were unable to see the bad stuff around them? Because they were wearing special holy God-specs that made everything look rosy? Unlikely! I’m sure they were well aware of the bleakness of their situation. It was all about their attitude, their choice to continue to be positive, thankful and faithful.
The Bible tells us that we can control the flow of good things into our lives by our attitude. In Matthew 6:22 Jesus says:
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.” NLT
I love how The Message puts it:
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” MSG
This tells me that simply by looking at the light, I can bring more of it into my life. By focusing on the good, I will invite more of it in! That’s not to say that God isn’t always pouring favour into our lives, but that our attitude affects the aperture! If God’s favour is the water running down a hose, then focusing on bad things is the equivalent of standing on that hose!
When we learn to see good, we find that we can be happy even when we have little, have a good time even when we’re losing, and have real hope for the future no matter what our current circumstances look like. But more than that, we become a source of positive energy ourselves, benefitting those around us.
So what things should we focus on? Paul had some great advice for the Philippians (4:8):
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” NLT
With these in mind, try making a list of all the good things in your life today, and thank God for them. It might just change your life.