Recently I confided to a new friend that over the past few years I'd struggled with depression. "Give anyone enough disappointments, discouragements and disillusions and you can create depression" I said. "So, you're a counselor", he said, "What did you do?" "I struggled" I said. "But, I'm glad I did. I've learned a lot, and I'm much more compassionate with others when they struggle."
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jesus in John 16:33)
We are going to have trouble in this world. Life outside the Garden of Eden is difficult. Scott Peck said it well, "Life is difficult, but once you accept that life is no longer as difficult because you stop expecting what it is not likely to give you."(1)
"Ok, so you can quote hopeful and helpful things" my friend said. "What did you do?" "Well" I replied, "It's what I'm still doing. Taking control of my thoughts and making a conscious decision to change what I think about and how I think about things." The classic glass half-full vs. glass half-empty illustration comes to mind.
Disappointments and uncertainty continue, but they are on balance with blessings. Sole focus on the negative easily gives rise to anxiety and can plummet me into depression. So, what's the alternative? The choice to count blessings and live with an attitude of gratitude. Pollyanna(2) got this one right, and so has been immortalized as the founder of the infamous Glad Game.
Pollyanna was an orphaned child of missionary parents who lived with unreasonable and illogical optimism. When faced with adversity she played "The Glad Game". "There's always something to be glad about", she would say.
Indeed, the infectious little optimist was a forerunner of well-researched cognitive-behavioral therapy, the world's best and most effective non-medical treatment for anxiety and depression. In summation, it's primary postulate is "What you think about and how you think about it has everything to do with how you feel."
In fact, the Apostle Paul came before Pollyanna, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
One of the teachings of Jesus that I currently appreciate the most is to live one day at a time. The future doesn't have to be lived today, and the reality is that today is all that I can do something about. When reduced even further, I can't control today, but I can control my response to the event's of the day. I can choose what to think about and how to think about things.
- that I have a relationship with Jesus
- that God has provided instruction about how to live
- that my family loves me
- that I have control of my attitude
What are you glad about? (Pollyanna)
On the journey,
1. The Road Less Traveled
2. 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter.
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