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A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

Christian author and speaker Charles Swindoll states, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Each of us chooses how we will react to life and all that comes with it.

When people encounter trials in life they may try to blame someone, an ex-spouse who cheated on them and left them for some other, younger prize, a boss that refused to trust them, abusive or non-existent parents, a tough childhood.

Other people blame God. “If God is a God of love and justice why did this happen? If He is so powerful why can’t He change this situation I’m in? He must not love me or He’s angry at me, or He’s too weak or too uninterested to act.”

Still other people blame themselves. “I’m no good. I’m a loser, I will never amount to anything.”

The problem with these kinds of attitudes is that they don’t only affect the person harboring these destructive thoughts, they affect everyone around them. Everyday people wake up and make a decision (consciously or unconsciously) about the day they will have. Chances are, the decision they make will come true. If today is going to be sunny and warm with flowers all around and birds chirping, then that is probably the way the day will go.

If they decide the day will be cold and stormy with frequent flashes of lightning and hail, then you’d best hope you aren’t in the path of the storm.

Just as a negative attitude is contagious, so is a positive one. But positive attitudes that will bring change to your world have to have a solid base. ‘Happy all the time’ emotions are shallow and flaky. People will see through them right away. But a heart that is at peace in all circumstances brings calm to a situation and can even bring joy.

Positive attitudes are a choice each of us must make. Real happiness is a choice we make based on our faith belief that God is bigger than any problem that comes our way. Positive attitudes based solely on human emotion are sure to fail because they are based on human strength which will never stand during the storms of life.

As you go about your day today, chances are you will run into crabby people along the way. Hopefully you aren’t one of them! Choose from the moment you get out of bed that today will be a good day. Show it to the crabby lady behind the convenience store counter with a kind word and a smile (no matter how bad her service is).

Show kindness to the sarcastic and demeaning policeman as he pulls you over for speeding, causing you to be late for work.

Show humility to your boss when you try to explain why you are late…again.

Show patience by not kicking the dog when you get home because it’s been one of those days!

The happiness you show others will brighten their day as well as yours, plus it brings glory to God. Don’t let your reactions to others be based on the fickle, shifting sands of human emotion. How you react to them will either make their day better or worse and it’s all under your control.

PRAYER: Father I ask that you would help me to be a source of happiness and joy to each person who crosses my path today. May my life shine in such a way that Your name is glorified and the pain of others is lessened just because they crossed my path. I pray these things in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, amen.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

Ever notice how it seems like evil always triumphs over good? Does it frustrate you when you hear of really good people, giving people, spiritual people who go through physical, emotional, financial or relational attack? Do you sometimes find yourself looking to heaven and asking God: “What do I have to do to get you listen to me? Do you see what’s going on down here?

If you have ever had any of these feelings then you understand a little better the emotional struggle David is writing about in Psalm 73. David was completely happy tending sheep. It was predictable with a certain amount of adventure. Sheep are stupid animals but even in their stupidity they were easier to get along with than people. He was able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God’s creation on a daily basis. Being a shepherd was a lonely life, but it was safe.

Then along comes some prophet and changes all that. Soon he found himself anointed king and living in a palace where his boss, the current king, felt threatened and tried to kill him, even chasing him down with the army!

Most of us don’t have physical armies chasing us or evil kings (or people) trying to kill us. But we struggle daily with other enemies. Relationships, finances, health issues, job-related issues take their toll on our emotional strength.

We suffer from the bruises and scars of our past. Some of those scars cover wounds that run deep from abusive parents, siblings or ex-spouses. We ask for relief. We plead with God to do something. Yet nothing seems to help.

Others of us may face the constant battle of addictions. Drugs, alcohol, sex and lust are the ones we think of first when we talk about addictions, but what about the addictive tendencies to always react with anger, of burying our pain in food or other safe things that really don’t do our body any good. We beg. We plead. We bargain with God.

“If you will only release me from this I’ll… (Fill in the blank)” But there is no response from heaven.

David says (my paraphrase), ‘Every emotion I have right now is negative. I feel like my very insides are tied up in one big knot. I feel like a complete failure and see no hope for my future. Everything seems stacked up against me.’

But then David remembers one thing and this one thing is what empowers him to move on, to fight for what is right, to never give up. It’s the one thing we as Christ-followers can always count on. When everything else seems uncertain, the one thing we can cling to, like a rock in the midst of a rushing river is this: “God is always with me and loves me.” He knows the battle you are fighting right now. He knows how weak you feel. He refuses to give up on you! That’s grace. That’s deliverance.

Our reputations, our relationships, our health can be destroyed by evil people, but nothing can take God’s love from us. Are you facing a struggle today that seems to big for you to handle? Hang on tightly to your faith in God. Never give up fighting for the right. Never stop living for Jesus. He remains the one constant in a volatile world.

PRAYER: Holy God. I thank and praise you for your love, mercy and grace. I thank you for the fact that even when I can’t see you, you see me clearly. I thank you that when others attack me, you know my heart and my motives. Empower me with Your Spirit to keep fighting the good fight. Help me rest in your loving arms in the midst of the battle. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

Have you ever been in a situation where you were waiting anxiously for something to happen? Perhaps you were waiting for God to answer a prayer you had for a loved one who was sick? Waiting for the doctor’s report. Waiting for word on a loved one in the military. Waiting for word from the bank about a loan, or if you were going to keep you house. Waiting for your employer to decide who keeps their job and who becomes unemployed. Waiting for the judge to decide the sentence.

Waiting. It can be agonizing. Waiting can become so much a part of you that controls your thoughts, your sleep, your eating habits, your moods. Waiting can affect your relationships, your outlook on life, and your opinion of God, yourself or others.

I remember when I was going through a terribly stressful time in my life. Everything I had counted on was gone. I was at the mercy of a legal system I didn’t trust. I had no money, no job and, perhaps, no future.

Sleep was fitful at best. I’d go to bed very, very late (or should I say early in the morning) and wake up from a fitful sleep just a few hours later. The lack of sleep caused fatigue which made the problems seem worse. My physical, emotional and spiritual health was failing.

The one thing I looked forward to every morning was seeing the sunrise. Light seemed to ease the fear and the pain. Being able to see what was around me gave me comfort in the midst of hopelessness. I hated the darkness of night.

I would imagine that is the word picture the Psalmist wants us to have in Psalm 130 when he likens waiting to the work of the night watchman. When the Bible repeats a phrase or a word it does so for effect, to show importance. Darkness was scary. Darkness was dangerous.

Today we have security lights and motion detectors. In his day there were torches and, sometimes moonlight. Daylight brought the assurance that you made it through the night without enemy attack. In the daylight you could see the enemy approach and arm yourselves. In the dark you were really at your enemy’s mercy.

That’s often how we feel when we are waiting expectantly, hopefully, earnestly for God to make something happen in our lives. The foundation on which we wait has to be trust. Trust in God’s character. Trust in His word. Trust in His promises. We do what we can to resolve some problems, but there are some where we just trust God for His word.

Your Heavenly Father loves you. He’s promised to take care of you. Everything He brings your way, the good and the bad, is given you in order to draw you closer to Him and trust His promises. Hard as it is to wait, waiting is easier when we really learn to rely on God to see us through the darkness and into the dawn.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I’m a lousy wait-er. I want answers and I want them now. I get impatient and don’t understand why you won’t answer me. Right now I’m in a very dark place in my life. I have issues with my relationships, my finances, my health, my faith. I need to see some light. Empower me by your Spirit to endure the darkness and draw close to you. Keep me safe until the dawn. In Jesus name, Amen.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I signed the piece of paper and he left. I watched him winch the truck up onto the trailer with a couple other cars and drive away. There went my dream truck. I bought it during a very tumultuous time in my life. It was the truck I always wanted. I spend way more than I could afford for it and within a few months lost my job as well. I had no choice but to have it repossessed.

I still think about that truck and that whole situation. Not just because I’m a guy and we guys like our trucks. There’s a much deeper reason. I remember the day I picked it up from the dealer. I don’t know what the expression on Jonah’s face was as he boarded the ship, but I’m pretty sure mine was comparable. I knew I shouldn’t buy that truck. I asked a few people’s opinion and got mixed reviews.

As I drove away from the dealer there was no excitement, only worry about if I did the right thing. I pulled into a parking lot and bowed my head. I thanked God for my new truck and ‘dedicated its use to Him.’ Yep. I did. Sounds pretty stupid now. The first time I officially ‘involved’ God in the decision was long after it was done.

That’s my experience (or at least the one I’m sharing), what’s yours? Each of us has those times we can look back on in our lives and regret. Times when we made decisions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We do them knowing that they won’t please God, or thinking they won’t matter.

Of all the lessons I learned from that experience, the one that stands out is that even in those times when we endure the consequences of our bad choices God is there. God forgives us for the bad choices we make but allows consequences to take their course to help us grow stronger.

There are many times when I get angry or disappointed when God doesn’t do what I think He should. It angers me when people refuse to forgive each other; when churches fight among themselves about who has the better theology or worship style; about the inequities and injustices handed down by our judicial system and government; about parents who use and abuse their children for their own morbid reasons. I wonder why He doesn’t act.

I don’t get angry about my truck. I’m learning, the hard way, that when we don’t consult our Father about issues in our lives He loves us enough to let us fail, but never enough to leave us there.

When we seek His wisdom and His understanding in life we will still encounter bumps in the road, but we’ll feel the peace that comes from knowing we are secure in His will. Surround yourself with wise people, but always listen to the direction God gives.

PRAYER: Holy God. I praise you for the fact that you love me so much. There are so many things in my life right now that I confess are consequences of my behavior and not acts of revenge on your part. Forgive me for my stubborn habit of thinking I need to have things my way. Empower me with your Spirit to hear your voice when I need to make decisions in life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Each of us has dreams growing up. We dream of being famous. We dream of having fancy clothes, big homes and vacation homes and being able to travel. Then life hits us and for the vast majority of us we look back and see that little, if anything, went as planned.

Gravity attacks our body with vengeance. Old age reminds us of our mortality. We fall victim to health issues, financial issues or relational issues. We suffer from own poor choices or the abuse of others. Our children struggle. A car accident, a fall, an illness can change things in an instant and all the dreaming and planning is for nothing.

The only thing we can be certain of in life is uncertainty. Even King Solomon, with all his wealth and power, bemoaned the fact that the things in life are empty. Still we plan all these things about tomorrow without really knowing where our next breath will come from. No matter how wise we are and no matter how much we plan for the future, reality is we just can’t see tomorrow.

That’s the bad news. Now for the good news. We have a Heavenly Father who not only sees tomorrow. He created it. Tomorrow may not hold what you’d hoped for or expected, but it is EXACTLY what He expected. There are no surprises with God.

Not only has He been to tomorrow and back, He wants you to succeed. While the consequences of poor choices may have sent you on a detour, He can always bring you back to the main road. Happiness and contentment in life isn’t from the things we hold in our hands, but from the things we hold in our heart.

James doesn’t tell us not to plan. Planning is vitally important. The old adage “If you fail to plan you plan to fail’ isn’t in the Bible but its very true. What James is telling us as Christ-followers is that we need always to include God in those plans and leave room for his working. Our lives are like vapors, like the early morning fog. Here now, gone later. All the material things we’ve done will soon pass. But the lives we change will continue on.

The key to success in live isn’t planning and education or relying on the advice of other people. Success comes by seeking God’s direction for you. Education and the wisdom of those who’ve gone before you is important, but only when combined with seeking God for direction.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I look behind me and see so many mistakes I’ve made, and I suffer the  consequences of. I fear what lies ahead of me with health, finances and relationships. I thank you that while my life here is short, my life with you will last for eternity. Help me to learn to include you in all my dreams so that I can store my riches with you for eternity. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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