Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…
I had to work last Sunday. It was a beautiful July day and as I was going to miss it, I was grumpy. Three years ago, when life fell apart, I promised that if I could put my career back together, I would never complain about going to work again. I told God and self that I would remain thankful for my job as long as I lived. As that promise obviously did not include sunny July days though, I allowed myself to be irritated by work.
Before work, I went to jail for Sunday morning bible study where I met with Kent who had a big smile and hug for me. He told me how he had already had one visitor this week, his cold was getting better and he got to meet with me. Three good things in one week and he was happy as a clam. His joy over these stupid little things almost irritated me. Did he not realize he was in jail? What was wrong with him? Why was he not moping like me? I had to go to work after all…
Fortunately, his attitude was infectious and I quickly realized what a baby I was being. I put on my big-boy pants and chose to be grateful for my job, my freedom and my faith. Though I was going to miss out on part of a sunny day, I had so much for which to be thankful.
The book of Acts tells the story of Paul and Silas, two apostles, who were imprisoned for sharing the gospel of Christ. In jail and in stocks, they did not whine about their misfortune, rather, they sang and praised God. I cannot imagine how much this would irritate me. Do you not know you’re in jail? What is wrong with you? Why are you not mad at God?
When in treatment, I had to learn this lesson over and over. My attitude does not need to be a slave to my circumstances. Though I knew I needed treatment, it was a constant exercise to not obsess about the disaster of my life. A hundred times a day, I had to turn the orientation of my mind from self to God. In obsessing about self, I was wreck. I could not focus on that which I needed. It was only in choosing the attitude or focus of my mind that I could get what I needed out of treatment.
This is no different today. Daily, I have this choice to choose my own attitude. So often, I allow my attitude to be chosen by someone or something outside of me. I surrender my control when I allow people and events to irritate and aggravate me.
It does not need to be this way. God has given me the freedom to focus on self or to focus on him. Like Kent and like Paul, even in prison, I can find a joy and freedom that no one can take away. My attitude is my choice. In my attitude, I can live enslaved to the misery of self or I can enjoy freedom in God, no matter what my circumstances.