I’ve noticed something: some people get better in hardship while others just get bitter. Why is that?
For instance, Jane and Mary go to the same church and both lose their jobs. They have encountered the same challenge, yet their reactions are very different.
Jane prays and can’t sleep. Mary prays and experiences a “peace” she can’t explain. Jane comes to church with a worried, shriveled face. Mary enters the building with concern, but a smile. Jane urgently asks others to pray for her. Mary tends to be praying for people. Jane doesn’t have time to serve because she is looking for a job. Mary volunteers because she is in between jobs. Jane feels she can’t afford to give to the Lord. Mary believes she can’t afford not to give. The reactions are strikingly different. Maybe I notice this because I play the unique role of pastor in each person’s life.
Along with these differences, I also notice Mary posses five habits Jane is lacking. Let me describe them to you.
5 Habits to Cultivate Joy
1) Mary strives to bring glory to God. She takes seriously the command to “find out what pleases the Lord” and then she does it. Her attitudes, thoughts, and actions bring a smile to God. She is committed to this habit when things are going her way and when life is a struggle. To put it bluntly, her circumstances are secondary to her purpose. She is more concerned about pleasing God than herself or anyone else.
2) Mary enjoys God’s gift of community. Paul wrote “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” God provides a place for people to belong. A place where they can do life together “with one another in love.” Mary has decided to spend her life practicing loving others unselfishly in the context of a church family. Being humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving doesn’t work best with strangers. They greatest impact takes place when we use them among those who know us and among those with whom we have committed to know: God’s family.
3) Mary applies God’s Word to her life. She doesn’t just know what the Bible says. She attempts to practice what the Bible says. James, Jesus’ half brother, said it this way, “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
4) Mary is looking for ways to serve others. She is not ignoring her own needs, but she does not let personal needs dominate her life. She has learned the balancing act Paul described when he wrote, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” While Mary is serving others she is trusting God will provide for her.
5) Finally, Mary finds a way to introduce Jesus to the people her circumstances bring to her. Jesus’ last command before ascending to heaven was “go and make disciples.” The word “go” means “as you go.” In other words, Mary doesn’t wait for mission trips or service projects or Sunday morning to talk about Jesus. She communicates her faith in Christ as her life unfolds…daily if possible.
There is only a one letter difference between a bitter person and a better person. If we quit focusing on the “i” and instead focus on these habits, we become a better person through Christ.
Better people tend to be happier people. Are you like Jane or Mary?