Editorial: January 2008
Dalvi, the cabbie we employ regularly for trips within Mumbai city, is an admirable 65-year old gentleman. Irrespective of the time, day or night, he turns up punctually. His enthusiasm at the wheel is not numbed by the endless Mumbai traffic he negotiates daily. His joie de vivre remains undiminished, despite the seeming monotony of his job.
A few months ago, we met Mr. Guruprasad. He is a fine young man, thirty-something, a good Bible teacher, pastoring a church. We were wonderstruck by his story. From the age of 18, his urinary bladder has been dysfunctional (Ehlersdanlos syndrome) and he has used a catheter to drain the fluid three or four times daily. This is a painful process. Moreover, he is 60% blind. Disappointed with the travails of life, he decided to commit suicide along with his parents and brother. At that time, his mother heard the Gospel and this led to the transformation of the entire family. The Word of God brought about a change in attitude. Seeing him, you will never make out that he suffers from any ailment. Ever cheerful, he is happily married. Notice that his circumstances have not changed, just his response to them.
The gifted, nineteenth century violinist, Paganini, taught us a similar lesson. Playing a difficult piece of music with a full orchestra before a packed house, one of his violin strings suddenly snapped. Beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead. He continued to play, improvising beautifully.
A little later, a second string broke. Shortly thereafter, a third string gave way. But the master performer completed the difficult composition with the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and filled the hall with shouts and clapping. As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit down. They quietly sank back into their seats.
Paganini held the violin high for every one to see, nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and turned back to the crowd. With a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted to the crowd, "Paganini… and one string!" After that, he placed the single-stringed violin beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience shook their heads in wonderment!
We have the power to choose our own attitude. No matter what happens, regardless of what any one would ever do to us, the choice of attitude is ours to make. It is for us to choose bitterness or forgiveness, hope or hatred, determination to endure or the paralysis of self-pity. According to Charles Swindoll, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.
Attitude is more important than my education, my bank balance, my success or failures, fame or pain, my circumstances, my position, what other people think of me or speak about me. Attitude is the "single string" that keeps me going or cripples my progress. If we have the right attitude, there is no valley too deep, no barrier too high, no challenge too great and no dream too difficult to achieve.
But, we often spend more time concentrating on the strings that broke-the things we cannot change. We waste our time complaining about the weather, the wind, traffic snarls, rise in the cost of living and on-the-job irritants and disappointments. We waste our energy fighting the inevitables. And we grow sour, raise our blood pressure, get ulcers and we suffer. Some actually die due to this. One study called "Broken Heart" examined the death rate of 4,500 widowers within six months of their spouses' deaths. Compared to other men of the same age, the widowers had a mortality rate 40% higher. Evidently, life became too difficult for them to handle. There was nothing left for them when the last string snapped.
Circumstances may cause us to lose our joy. People can bring trials that rob us of our joy. Very often we lose our peace and joy because of what people say or do. The best remedy for these trials is the submissive mind, the humble mind that seeks to honour Christ.
The Philippians had a few personality conflicts that could have hindered their growth. Paul appealed to them on the basis of their Christian experience to have unity of mind and heart, and to put others ahead of them. He exhorted them as follows: "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose"(Phil.2:1-2). If we are in Christ, we ought to be able to live with one another! Life can seem unbearable at times. Physical pain, the death of a loved one, difficult decisions, financial hardship or shattered dreams can intimidate us. We become fearful and perplexed. Through personal faith in Christ, we can have a calm retreat during the storms of life.
There is love and encouragement in the person of Christ. There is affection, compassion and fellowship of the spirit. Heaven is full and running over with these qualities. Paul advises us to take charge of our minds. We have the God-given ability to put our minds on those things that build up, strengthen, encourage and help others as well as ourselves (Phil.2:3-4). We should decide not to focus on self. Further, "do all things without grumbling or disputing" (Phil.2:14). "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time," promises the Word of God (1 Pet. 5:6). Remember what happened to Pharaoh, King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman and Herod? When we have the submissive mind that Christ had, we will have the joy and peace which He alone can give.
There are many things all around us that can irritate us. Life is not a bed of roses! Some of the inescapable facts of life, known as Murphy's Laws, are listed below:
* Nothing is as easy as it looks.
* Everything takes longer than you think.
* If anything can go wrong, it will.
* The other traffic lane always moves faster.
* The chance of the bread falling with the jam side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
* No matter how hard you shop for an item, after you have bought it, it will be on sale somewhere cheaper.
* Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.
A positive attitude is essential for survival in a world subservient to Murphy's Laws. Too many Christians get wrapped up in the things of this world and lose the joy and peace that they ought to have in Christ. They lack the spiritual mind of a dedicated believer. Our minds can be kept free of anxiety as we dump our cares on the Lord in prayer. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" (Phil.3:1).
If we blame others, we widen the gap between us and them. We alienate ourselves. We poison the relationship. Till we stop blaming, we will not start enjoying health and happiness.
If we choose to blame God, we cut off our single source of power. If you can own the mess you are in, there is hope for you and help is available. As long as you blame others, you will be a victim for the rest of your life.
A changed attitude brings about a transformation in the very course of your life. We cannot change nature. What we can and should do is to change our attitude towards it.
A teacher had two students. He asked one of them how he felt the world should be. The student replied that it was a hopeless world. Even the bright day lost its value when he saw that it was preceded and followed by dark nights. The darkness was disgusting. The teacher put the same question to the other student. He replied that it was a wonderful world. How bright the days were! Of course, the nights were dark, but he knew that each night was followed and preceded by a bright day. The first student saw only the nights and their darkness. The second saw only the days and their brightness.
On December 2, 1993, Alexis Leon, working with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), met with a traffic accident and became a paraplegic. TCS welcomed him back. One day he read in a Reader's Digest article: "When God closes all doors, He opens a window. Often we spend so much energy banging on closed doors that we forget to feel and enjoy the breeze coming through the open window." It struck a chord in Leon. He said: "Instead of worrying about my losses, I started to count all the things I still had, and it was a revelation. I have an education, I have work, the respect of my colleagues. I have a family that supports me. So many windows are open." To make a long story short, this attitude of Leon enabled him to write 40 books on computer software engineering (Reader's Digest Nov. 2007).
"The only thing worth doing is the last thing we try doing - turning it over to our God, for whom there is nothing impossible or cannot handle. Grab the problem and send it upward."
Paul and Silas were humiliated, beaten and dumped in a prison. Their circumstances could not be more disappointing. The jailer added to their sufferings by thrusting them into the inner prison and putting their feet in the stocks. But this unfair treatment did not steal their joy or dampen their confidence in God. The jailer went to sleep. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. The other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25). They determined that they would not be paralysed by self-pity. As they sang and prayed, the unbelievable thing happened. There came a great earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison. Prison doors opened and the prisoners' chains were loose. The jailer, awakened from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposed the prisoners had fled. He was about to kill himself (Acts 16:26-28). Calmly Paul spoke words of encouragement to the jailer. He even promised that there would be no attempt to escape. God marvellously used their attitude to change the entire situation. Paul's love and God's grace reached the heart of the jailer. He and his entire household believed and they were baptised. The jailer proved he had truly been transformed by washing the apostles' wounds and feeding them in his own house.
The right choice of attitude can transform our circumstances, irrespective of how hopeless the situation may appear. Impossibilities can turn into incredible opportunities. Remember,
"God specialises in things tho't impossible;
He does the things others cannot do"
In this New Year, be reminded of God's Word: "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law….; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go" (Josh.1:7).