Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
This bit of wisdom has been confirmed by a number of studies over the years. Attitude has been shown again and again to be the single most consistent predictor of health outcomes. The human immune system is remarkable to say the least, and to a large degree it is governed by our attitude, our emotional state. The thing is, the more we are focused on ourselves, the harder it is to have a healthy attitude, either physically or emotionally. I frequently tell parents that raising their children to be self-centered is condemning them to lives of unhappiness, but when the parents are self-centered, they have trouble really getting the message! Jesus’ designations of the 1st and 2nd Commandments (Matthew 22:37-38) is a perfect example of how God’s rules are for our good, and not to bind us. Loving God with all that we are is the perfect antidote for being self-centered, because we realize that God, not ourselves, is the center and reason for everything. Then, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves puts it on the human level, again focusing us outward rather than inward. If we are fully obeying those two commandments, we will indeed be cheerful and healthy! All sorts of things can act toward crushing our spirits, but in every case the right response is to lift our eyes and hearts first to God, knowing that He loves us regardless of what is happening in the short term (and yes, our whole lives are short term, compared with eternity). When we have that firmly established, then we are free to be open channels of His blessing to those around us, and that feels very good indeed.
I am reminded of what I have heard of my mother’s last days. She was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer after surgery for a brain tumor showed that, despite the location, it was a lung cancer tumor. The original tumor was never identified, but it was certainly aggressively metastatic, to the point that by the time she died, her body was visibly bumpy from all the tumors. It wasn’t long after the brain surgery that the hospital sent her to a nursing home, because there was nothing further they could do. Because of the brain issue she steadily lost her memory, but the nurses at the nursing home reported that she was always kind and appreciative toward them, despite her condition. In other words, she was acting as a conduit of God’s love and grace to those around her all the way to the end. That is truly obeying the 1st and 2nd Commandments. With an example like that, I have a high standard to reach! I deal with people all the time who cannot see that the mess they are in is largely of their own making, because they have been ignoring the 1st and 2nd Commandments. When we focus in on I-my-me-mine we wall ourselves off from the incredible abundance of blessings that God has planned and prepared for us. I’ve got to keep remembering that myself, even as I seek to communicate it to others.
Father, You know my recent challenges in this area. I don’t have the wisdom to deal with each person and each situation, but You do. Help me be so focused on You that Your wisdom, love, and grace can operate freely in and through me, for the salvation of those to whom I minister and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!