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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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Is Misery Optional?

Someone has observed that pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional.  The Bible bears out that what happens to us in life is not as important as our response to what happens to us.  The apostle Peter once wrote words of encouragement to a group of suffering Christians- 'In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.' Peter had just reminded them that they had been 'begotten again to a I iving hope .... to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (I Peter 1:3-6).  Greatly rejoice while suffering grief and trials- Peter agrees that pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional!

Is misery an option, or is it standard equipment on the journey of life?  Is our attitude something we can choose, or is happiness in life a matter of happenstance?  The apostle Paul speaks to these important questions- 'Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice ... Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of Cod in Christ Jesus for you' (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  The New International Version says in I Thessalonians 5:18 'give thanks in all circumstances.' Do these kinds of texts in the Bible ever bother you?  Do you ever find yourself wishing the Bible said, "Rejoice in the Lord sometimes" and "Give thanks when things are going good?" Didn't the apostle Paul ever have a bad hair day?  Didn't anyone ever mistreat him, or wasn't he ever misunderstood or quoted out of context or slandered?  Didn't he ever suffer stress or pain in his life?  Bible students know the answer to all these questions.  Paul was in miserable circumstances much of the time after he became a Christian.  He was in a miserable situation when he penned Philippians 4:4 from a prison cell.  But Paul came to understand something many people, including many Christians, never seem to learn- misery is an option.  While I can't always control my circumstances or people who help to create them, I am always the one who controls my attitude!

Paula Devicq observed in TV Guide, "Life is like pizza.  Even when it's bad, it's good." You may not be able to control what happens to or around you today.  You may not be able to rejoice in what's going on out of the Lord, but you can choose to rejoice in the Lord.  Misery really is optional!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ