It is a truth of life that our disposition is determined more by our inward man than by our exterior circumstances.
Consider two friends, working at the same job, facing the same difficulties, and yet approaching them very differently.
“I can’t see things ever getting better,” says the first, “I’m getting older, my health is getting worse; there is hardly enough money to pay the bills, and I find no joy in life.”
“Things are great and getting better,” says the second, “Life is wonderful.”
“How can you say such a thing,” asks the first, “You are no healthier than I, no wealthier than I, and you face many of the same difficulties I do.”
“My outward man is dying, it is true, but my inward man is being renewed daily. My bank account is empty, but I have treasures laid up in heaven. And the difficulties are nothing compared to the joy that awaits me in heaven.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16; Matthew 6:19-20; Romans 8:18)
Attitude is everything when dealing with life, and God makes it possible to have a great attitude. Not a naïvely unreasonable attitude, but rather an optimistic hope based in the firm promises of God.
One of the great examples of this, oft cited, is that of the men, Paul and Silas, who, having been arrested for preaching the gospel, subsequently beaten soundly, and then locked, injured and wounded, in stocks, in the bottom of a dungeon, spent the next few hours singing songs and offering praise to God. (Acts 16:25) Their outward circumstances were as sad, tragic and deplorable as could be; but their sins were forgiven and they had been freed in Christ, and thus had joy in their hearts sufficient as to sing.
These two saints were just following the example of Christ, who, having been beaten, tortured, stripped naked, and nailed to a cross, was able to say, in the midst of pain, “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) Though His outward circumstances were horrific, Jesus was able to commend Himself to God, and had the firm and true hope that He would soon be once more in paradise. (cf. Luke 23:43, 46)
In Christ, it is possible to have an attitude such as to weather any storm, or face any trial, and do so with joy, hope, and love.
Such a feat requires, it is true, a good reworking of the inward man, but that is what Christ truly wants to give to us. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” says the Bible (Romans 12:2). Let God renew that inward man on a daily basis (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:!6) Learn to think on those things good, lovely and noble (cf. Philippians 4:8)
Unfortunately, many seek only a superficial sort of religion that consist of little more than outward show. Of such was the religion of the Pharisees which Jesus condemned, likening them to white-washed tombs, that, while they looked rather clean and lovely on the outside, were filled with rot and decay. (cf. Matthew 23:27) Such a religion is worthless for overcoming the trials of lives, and sadly, in such a religion, there is no true hope. If the inward man is dead, the trials of life will too often prove superior to our faith and joy, we will find ourselves feeling bleak and lost. If the inward man is dead, then we truly are lost, and eternity will be bleak.
If you want the full blessings of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:3) then you must allow Him to work on changing you inwardly, replacing the worldly with the spiritual, the sinful with the righteous, and the temporary with the eternal. Such change begins with faith and repentance, a forgiveness of sins in the waters of baptism, and a new life in Christ. But as we walk with Christ, through our obedience to His word, we allow Him to continue to work on us inwardly.
Such a process is well worth it, producing as it does, joy eternal, peace that passes understanding, and an overflow of love within and without us. With such gifts, we can weather any trial, and come out as victors (cf. Romans 8:35-37)
If you have found yourself overwhelmed by the trials of life and would like to learn more of the joy and peace Jesus offers, the church of Christ invites you to come study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.