Choose Your Attitude
We’ve all had a bad day. Most of us have had a bad week. Some of us have had a bad month. Few of us have had a bad three years.
Yet Horatio Spafford experienced exactly that. If you recognise his name it may be because he is the composer of the great old hymn, ‘It Is Well’. The story of how that hymn came about is a truly remarkable one.
Horatio Spafford was married with four kids: one son and three daughters. In 1870 tragedy struck the family when their son died of scarlet fever. It doesn’t get much worse than that, but sadly, it soon would. Because in 1871 the Great Fire of Chicago destroyed their home. With no insurance to cover them, they lost almost everything they had. So Horatio put his wife and his four remaining children on a ship to England while he stayed home to rebuild their livelihood.
A few days after the ship departed, however, he received a telegram from his wife: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” There had been a shipwreck, and all four of their daughters had drowned. I cannot imagine anything worse. Which is why what happened next inspires me as much as it amazes me.
Horatio quickly boarded another ship to England, and as it passed over the very same place in the ocean where his daughters had been so tragically taken from him, he penned these words:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
What Horatio’s story teaches me is this: We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose your response to those circumstances.
I’m reminded of the prayer of Habakkuk, who said…
Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Habakuk chooses to rejoice and be joyful in God, not because of his circumstances, but in spite of them.
I believe that one of the primary responsibilities for a leader is to create a culture of hope. The leader should be the one who sees the best in their young people, who believes that God has a brighter tomorrow for them and encourages them to that end. The leader believes that even if today has been bad, tomorrow could be better.
They lift the spirit of their teams after a difficult Friday night. They are optimists. They are dreamers. They are visionaries. They create a culture of expectation in their teams by painting a picture of what could be. They are ‘overflowing with hope’. (Romans 15:13).
This is why the leader must learn the art of speaking to their soul; of taking control of their emotions rather than allowing their emotions to take control of them. This doesn’t mean being fake or disingenuous, it means their attitude is consistent through good times and bad.
So can I ask you to consider, if you’ve had a bad Friday how does that come out on a Friday night? Are you downcast and sullen? Are you snappy and short with people? Do you bring the atmosphere of your team down with you?
Do your young people give you a wide-berth for fear you may bite their hands off? Do you just not show up at all? Or do you choose your attitude. To paraphrase Habakuk, ‘though I’ve had a really bad day, yet I will bring the best of myself to God and the young people tonight!’
It is important as youth leaders that we have someone with whom we are able to be brutally honest, to laugh and cry with, and to vent at when we feel frustrated; a confidant with who we are able to spill our guts to ensure that we don’t spill them over our young people! Once we have done that we will be more able to choose our attitude.
When Jesus’ cousin and friend John the Baptist was beheaded by Saul, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to grieve. The crowds didn’t respect his need for privacy however and followed him anyway. But rather than rejecting the crowd, Jesus engages, he heals and he miraculously feeds over 5000 of them!
Just think, if Jesus had acted in response to his feelings rather than in spite of them, we would have missed out on one of the greatest miracles recorded in Scripture!
I truly believe that one of the most important things a leader can learn is how to make choices in spite of their feelings rather than because of them. So much of our spiritual growth stems from this discipline.
Friends, we cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose our response to the circumstances. What makes the difference is not the ferocity of the storm, but the depth of our character.
So choose your attitude. Be overflowing with hope. Create a culture of expectation. Inspire optimism in others when they are close to giving up. For it is to this end that God calls us to lead.
Question: How do you make the right choices in spite of your feelings rather than because of them? What tips can you share? Leave a comment below.