By Candy Arrington
Occasionally we hear stories of generosity, kindness, or heroism. These stories warm our hearts and stir our souls. But for the most part, the news touts evidence of hatred, greed, violence, deceit, and heartache. Nations war. Government officials disagree. Leaders cheat. Natural disasters occur. Terrorism abounds.
While it’s hard to have a positive attitude when so much around us is chaotic and confusing, God wants us to live victorious lives. But that won’t happen as long as we’re focused on the negative and controlled by fear. We need to understand why we experience a tendency toward the negative; then we can learn ways to change our perspective to the positive.
WHY WE ARE NEGATIVE
Heritage. If you grew up in a family where focusing on problems and pointing out the worst in situations and people was the norm, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to change that pattern. Sometimes a melancholy personality also factors in. Just as we often spout clichés we grew up hearing, we also gravitate toward viewing people and events in light of patterns established in our upbringing. Proverbs 4:23 warns, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Good News Translation).
Self-focus. Often we expect the world to revolve around us. If things aren’t going the way we’d like, we’re convinced life is unfair and those in our immediate sphere are unsupportive and selfish. We look at life through a zoom lens and fail to see the big picture of God’s blessings and provisions in our lives. Self-focus almost always lends a negative perspective because we narrow things down to the immediate and trust others for our happiness instead of looking to God for direction, wisdom, and support.
Comparisons. God created each of us with unique gifts and talents. Comparisons usually involve criticism of others or self. Often we fall into a pattern of criticizing other people and things because it makes us feel superior. But comparisons and critiques set the tone for a negative outlook on life. Not only does it poison your perspective, it also bleeds onto those around you. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” (Romans 15:5, New International Version).
Fear. Satan effectively wields fear like a sharp sword, slicing through our confidence and causing us to question God. The more fearful we are, the less likely we are to see positives in life. Fear and its twin, anxiety, hobble many believers into a life of bondage and a negative mindset. The presence of fear equals an absence of trust. When fear covers you like a dark cloud, pray, asking God to help you believe and trust he is in control of all that affects your life. “[God] controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings” (Daniel 2:21, New Living Translation).
WAYS TO BE POSITIVE
Guard your tongue. Sometimes we allow what we say to set the tone for what we believe. Voicing negativity about people and circumstances or making verbally self-deprecating remarks are destructive to your mental health. Instead, learn to be an encourager. Make it a habit to look for positive qualities in others, and bless and affirm them. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV).
Reject Satan’s lies. Satan wants us to believe God isn’t interested in our struggles and that he is unavailable to help us. But Scripture reminds us God is present, aware, and available. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Satan is a master craftsman of untruth. If we allow the present culture and Satan’s lies to mold our thoughts, negativism becomes a way of life.
Practice contentment. Advertising encourages us to want more and obtain more. But if we stop to look at what we already have, we realize how God has blessed us. Practice self-control and patience. Wait before making a purchasing decision. Don’t get caught up in pressure to have more and do more. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6, New King James Version).
Change your focus. Adjust your vision from inward to outward. Look beyond your own issues to the world around you and become forward-looking rather than dwelling on the past. Satan likes to remind us of failures, but God offers forgiveness and restoration. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:2, The Message).
Anticipate rewards. Caleb is a biblical example of someone who saw positives in the midst of naysayers. While others painted a dim picture of the Israelites being able to take possession of the promised land, Caleb believed they could do it. He trusted God’s power to make it happen. God described Caleb as his servant, one who had a different spirit, a different attitude, and followed God wholeheartedly. In today’s world, we need a different attitude from those around us. God calls us to be salt and light in a dark world, and he rewards a positive attitude. God promised to bring Caleb into the promised land and that it would become an inheritance for his descendants.
Choose joy. Often we simply have to make a decision to have a positive, joyful attitude. If you make praise an attitude of your heart, it is easier to find sources of joy when circumstances challenge you. And if there doesn’t seem to be anything positive in your situation, remember your salvation is an ever-present source of thankfulness. Sometimes remembering the gift of salvation is just what we need to move beyond negative thoughts or to remove our focus from difficult circumstances. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV).
Pray. Often we forget the importance of maintaining a daily connection with God through prayer. Starting the day with prayer has a positive impact on our attitude for the day. We can meet challenges and annoyances in a different way than if we skip time with the Lord.
Serve. Jesus modeled and taught servanthood. When you serve, your focus is on others and your perspective is more positive. “Serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12, King James Version).
Ruthanne (Candy) N. Arrington is a freelance writer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.