I used to be a very positive person. There have been times, in fact, when I’ve wondered if I was the annoying person who always pointed out the silver lining. The woman in the group of gossipers that took up for the disparaged. The one to find the good in every situation. You know, the one that grated on people’s nerves.
If you understood the way I grew up, it wouldn’t make sense. It was difficult. And it would have been easy to lean into the bad and take on a negative mindset. But, there was a day that I clearly remember where I decided against that. A day as a young girl, maybe 11 or 12, where I decided that I didn’t want to be that way. That I wanted to choose the good. Find the good. Mine the good if I had to.
And so I did for most of my life—even during difficulties that were unfair and situations that broke my heart.
But, single motherhood. I not only didn’t see it coming, but I had no idea how difficult it would be. Because jumping into it is more than just facing a hardship and overcoming it. It’s full of devastating loss, and unfair games, people hurting ones you love more than life, and being abandoned by those you would never have imagined would leave you floundering.
It takes an unbelievable toll.
It’s been the most difficult journey of my life. And with each blow that seemed to strike me, a chip was left in my positive armor. Until one day—a few years into single motherhood—as I drove my youngest child home from school, I went off on a hateful rant about someone I found annoying in my life. Truth be told, they really weren’t all that bad—and it’s pretty much how I’d been talking about almost everyone lately. My sweet boy paused and let me get it all out, then pointed out the good in that person—much like I would have years before.
I was embarrassed.
And I realized that I’d lost myself a little. In the midst of my hard time, I’d stopped looking for the good. Worse than that, I’d started looking for the negative. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Expecting my life to get harder. Expecting my negative feelings to stick around forever.
And you know what? They were. I was getting back exactly what I was putting out. The thoughts that I were allowing into my mind were finding their way through my mouth, and my actions. My negative mindset had taken over.
When we go through significant struggles—the kind that pound us and pound us and keep coming no matter what we do—it’s easy to fall into the mindset of negative expectation. Because the world is negative. The world is constantly bickering with each other and trying to draw everyone into the argument. The world is happiest when others are negative, and pious, and looking down at the “stupidity” of others. It’s how they build themselves up. By comparison.
But as Christians, there’s only one comparison we need to be making in our lives. And that is comparing our lives to the life of Jesus. A man so positive because he knew something that he wanted us to understand—there is good in this world. But we have to choose it.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV
The truth? It’s all in our mindset. And it’s a choice we make daily that affects not only us, but everyone around us. A choice that teaches our children how to behave as well.
Like taking up our cross in a way that isn’t bitter, or resentful, or constantly pointing it out to garner attention. Taking it up instead, with our eyes toward the One who will free us from it. And that, sweet friends, is something to be joy-filled about.
I know the season is hard. Some of you are in the very hardest part of this journey. Some of you are longsuffering on this journey. But, there is joy to be had. Goodness to be found. And doing so will play a huge part in the way you overcome it.
Will difficulties still arise? Yes. But, choosing to tackle them with an eye set on finding the good all around us will lead to a lifestyle of gratitude, which leads to a life of joy.
Make a pledge for today, for this week, this month, or even this year, to seek the positive. Seek the joy. Because finding it will show you that there is still much of it to be had. And that little bit you find in your difficulty will help you press on toward the future God has just up ahead. A future filled with joy.