I am a glass-half-full sort of girl. Call it optimism or hope … or extreme creativity, but I can usually find something good in most situations, conversations, or people. And when I can’t easily spot it, I’ve got a reasonably, positive idea about why they did that negative thing. (They must not have seen me, right? Or they had a lot on their mind? It was that time of the month? Everyone’s entitled to an occasional bad mood?)
Yet even optimists face difficult situations where no amount of positive spin is going to make it any easier.
That’s where this week’s character quality comes in. Joyfulness. Maintaining a good attitude, even when faced with unpleasant conditions. A condition of supreme well-being and good spirits. Feeling and expressing deep happiness and enthusiasm.
How do we stay joyful even in the hard times? Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi makes it clear. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)
Joy comes from the realization that God is near. He knows exactly what that person just did or said to us. He already knows about all the stuff that makes us anxious. So when we pray, we transfer all our yucky burdens to His capable shoulders … and that leaves us with lighter hearts surrounded by peace. And it’s easier to maintain a good attitude if we’re trusting God to take care of the problems for us.
Paul practiced what he preached since he was no stranger to unpleasant conditions, even in the very town of Philippi! After delivering a slave girl from an evil spirit, an angry crowd dragged Paul and his friend Silas to the local police where they were stripped, “severely flogged,” and thrown in prison with their feet in stocks. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” (Acts 16:25a NIV) That’s joyfulness demonstrated long before the earthquake broke open the doors and freed them.
What others call optimism, I’ll now call joyfulness.
What about you? Is your glass half-full or half-empty? If you were in prison, would you be singing or complaining?