Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Which Path Will You Choose?

[This is my latest column, written for the Community Press newspapers in the Cincinnati area.]

No matter how far over the rainbow you go, you’ll still be carrying a full supply of your own rainclouds with you.

What do I mean by that? Basically this: Running away doesn’t eliminate most of our problems in life.

I meet a lot of people who suffer from what I call, “If only...” syndrome. You know what I’m talking about:

“If only I had a different job...a nicer house...a better sex life...a different boss...a more understanding spouse...my dream job somewhere else...”

People who suffer from this syndrome think that if only they could change things like their incomes, spouses, jobs, house sizes, locations, and careers, suddenly all would be well in their lives.

But it’s been my observation that most of the time, the discontent we feel with life has more to do with what’s happening in us than with what’s happening to us.

Most people looking for changes of venue would do better looking for changes of viewpoint. Abraham Lincoln, no stranger to disappointment, is reported to have observed, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Are you intent on appreciating your life, grateful for the blessings you already have? Or, are you wasting your time faulting other people or blaming your circumstances for the unhappiness by which you’ve decided to live?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not counseling anybody to put their lives on cruise control.

If your marriage isn’t what you think it should be, talk it over with your spouse or seek counseling.

If you’re in an abusive or adulterous relationship, get out of it now.

If you feel that a change in jobs or careers would bring you greater fulfillment or a better income with which to support you and your family, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go for it.

But people who play musical chairs with their relationships, jobs, and residences, thinking that there’s a magic doorway to nirvana over the next hill, only carry their unhappiness with them.

The greatest unhappiness we experience stems from what the Bible calls sin: the failure to love God, the refusal to give others the consideration we want them to give us, and the unwillingness to treat the blessings we’ve been given with respectful appreciation.

Jesus Christ, Who was God in the flesh, once said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:21-23)

We choose the prisms through which we look at our lives. We can, like the proverbial ship’s steward, rearrange the deck furniture on a doomed Titanic. That’s what people who blame others or their circumstances for their unhappiness do; they change the externals of their lives without addressing their real problem, the sin inside that has them mired in selfishness and immaturity.

Or we can, like centuries of believers, experience contentment and the power to make positive changes in our lives by taking responsibility for ourselves, our sins, and our outlook, asking for forgiveness from God through Christ, and from Him, receiving the power to move toward becoming the people we were made to be.

The first path leads to more unhappiness. The second one leads to God, personal growth and renewal, and eternity. Which path will you choose?

[Thanks to busy Dan at A Slower Pace for linking to this post.]


Dan said...

Nicely said!


Mark Daniels said...

Thank you, Dan.


foxwizard said...

Well said. Especially the part about not putting life on 'cruise control'. Yeah, we have to work at it, but that's what makes happiness, is working at being what God calls us to be.

As always, an excellent column.

Mark Daniels said...

Thank you very much!