• Richard Parrish

May Reflection by Richard Parrish - Attitude Adjustment

Updated: Jul 15


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“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.”⁠[1]

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."[2]

REFLECT


Two-words were all that was required.


Sometimes, lengthy conversations took place between my mother and me. The subject of these talks often was about my attitude.


The length of these discussions depended on mom’s patience and my stubbornness. As long as she demonstrated patience, I figured I could continue to resist, argue, or complain—hoping she would “cave in” and I would get my way.


Even the patience of Godly mothers has limits. How well I know!


Just two-words, spoken by mom, and I knew the conversation was finished.


At 4-feet 11-inches, she would look up at me and calmly say: “Attitude adjustment!” Just two-words and the conversation was over.


No amount of pleading, whining, complaining, or fussing was going to change mom. It only took two-words to remind me: My happiness and well-being could—and would—require an attitude adjustment.


As a young child, I would go to my room saying: It’s not fair! Mom would gently remind me: “Son, life isn’t fair. We do not always get what we want, but God always gives us what we need.”


Mom taught me that life is not always fair.


She instructed me that self-denial is making a sacrifice for the right reasons. Mom knew that we have a choice in how we respond to adversity. She helped me discover life didn’t center around me.


Even today, her words remain with me as an essential message to encourage me to maintain a positive, healthy perspective in life.


In Psalm 42, we see that life is not happening the way the Psalmist desires. His enemies are taunting him. In beautiful poetic expression, he reveals his anguish saying:

“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God’?”

Many of us today can relate to the Psalmist’s expression. Beyond the on-going, familiar challenges of life, we now have to live with the complications of COVID-19.


Conversations, debating whether we should return to the market place or not, take place daily. Heated dialogue, intended to cast blame, indicates how much we want things to go our way.


We’re all looking for answers. But to whom are we looking?


When life isn’t fair, when things aren’t going the way we want, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.


The Psalmist faces his despair by re-directing his focus, thus changing his attitude:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.”

I’m not suggesting God gave us this pandemic. However, God does give us what we need to adjust our attitudes—even in an epidemic.


Paul writes a letter to the Christians in Philippi while he’s in prison. Life isn’t going well for him, either.


Two women in the church in Philippi are creating dissension because of their disagreement. Euodia, whose name means “prosperous journey,” and Syntyche, “pleasant acquaintance,” missed seeing anything prosperous—or pleasant—in their dispute.


Contention always corrupts contentment. And when conflict disrupts comfort, an attitude adjustment is necessary.


Paul gives excellent advice on how to adjust our attitude when life isn’t fair.


Rejoice. Not because of your circumstances or disagreements. I’m not delighted because of a pandemic.


Paul is reminding us to re-direct our focus to the source of our joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4; emphasis mine).


Joy is not found in adversity, but in the Lord. He is our delight and Hope.


Be reasonable. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (4:5).


Life does not revolve around me (or you). Not everything I want is what I need. But what is needed is for others to see that I’m “reasonable.”


“Reasonableness” (ἐπιεικής) reflects a gentle, gracious, and forbearing attitude. We are reasonable when we refuse to speak evil of anyone and resist our desire to be quarrelsome.


That’s not as easy as it sounds. But Paul emphasizes: “The Lord is at hand.” He’s near us—and with us.” We’re not abandoned, forsaken, or forgotten. That assurance gives me the capacity to extend gentle grace, rather than lashing out, or insisting on my way.


Resist worry. Paul is not suggesting a non-caring attitude. He cared about the Philippians—and his situation. But Paul understands that anxiety eliminates trust in God.


Jesus puts this in perspective in his discourse about anxiety: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (See Matthew 6:25-34).


Re-direct your thinking. We have a choice about how—and what—we will think.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Adjusting our attitude is a choice, even when life is not fair.


RESPOND


  • Am I inclined to complain, rather than rejoice? Why?

  • What’s my fear? Am I able to name it?

  • Am I willing to release my anxiety to God? What keeps me from doing so?

  • What are the things I have today for which I’m thankful?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 42:5–6.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 4:8–9.