We don't have a choice about most of what happens to us or around us. However, we can choose how we react and even how we think about what happens to us. There are times that circumstances crowd in on me, and my thoughts run amuck. In those times, usually in anxiety, I struggle with even controlling my most basic thoughts. I want to choose to believe and be steady, but sometimes I become paralyzed in stress.
I hate feeling out of control; I know you do too. When there is chaos in my mind, and I can't seem to get a grip on my troubled thoughts, I found an excellent place to start.
I can choose to smile.
I know that may seem trivial and condescending. I am not just saying, "Now, turn that frown upside down." Because that would be patronizing, yet, something beautiful happens when we smile, even if we don't feel particularly happy.
Someone asked me one time how I could smile during a stressful situation. They assumed I wasn't "feeling" stressed. I laughed and replied, "Oh yeah, I am feeling the pressure of the stress. But, sometimes I have to choose to put a smile on my face until my heart/emotions catch up." I don't always do it, but when I choose to smile, the smile on my face eventually pushes down to my heart and up to my mind. Intentional smiling is a way to practice joy. Speaker Jeff Henderson says Joy is "More of a practice, than an emotion".
Have you heard of "fake it until you make it"? I know the word "fake" has a negative connotation; however, I don't see it that way in this case. I can't always control how I feel, but I usually can choose how I react.
The word choose is key.
There is a spiritual law of choosing, believing, abiding, and holding steady in our walk with God, which is essential to the working of the Holy Spirit either in our sanctification or our healing. - Lettie Cowan
I believe what I think, and the places I allow my mind to go are essential to mastering my emotional and spiritual health. But there are times that my thoughts are so un-tamable that I have to choose to do something physical. A smile is a great way to start.
It is an intentional action to tell my body, then hopefully my mind and spirit, that I choose to trust God. I choose to believe, abide, and hold steady. It also creates a space for me not to react in a negative way to a situation. Please understand that I don't always do this. There are times I give into anxiety, grief, or sadness, and it rolls over me.
Other times, we are so broken in our circumstances and life situations that it would be entirely inappropriate to plaster on a smile. There are times to grieve, be sad and allow stress to do its work in our hearts. It is a healthy part of the way the Lord has made us. To embrace those feelings and understand that it is a part of our broken journey on this earth. But we shouldn't reside there. God eventually calls us out into a place of freedom and healing.
I love the way The Message version of the Bible describes it in Psalm 18:16-19.
"But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!"
Wide-open. I love those words.
So, after I hurt for a while, I choose to smile. Because sometimes that tiny act is like a sacrifice of my will - that tells the rest of me - I choose to hold steady in my faith and not be mastered by my emotions.