My wife and I are currently reading Not Forgotten by Kenneth Bae. It is the true story of his imprisonment in North Korea from Nov.3, 2012 –Nov. 18, 2014. Kenneth, born in South Korea, felt led by God to be a bridge for God to North Korea and established a tourism company to take Christians into North Korea just to love and pray for the people there. “On his eighteenth trip into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea he inadvertently broke his own cardinal rule: never bring an external computer hard drive into the country.” He was arrested and after the contents of his computer was deciphered, was sentenced to fifteen years at a remote North Korean prison camp where he would withstand psychological torture, forced labor, and failing health. Through it all, Bae continued to trust God and to treat his captors kindly and obediently to demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness to them. He said, “I decided I needed to focus on what I could control. Given my circumstances, that was very little. About the only thing I had control over was how I reacted to my captors and what I told them—or wrote for them—in their interrogations. I had to release everything else to God’s hands.”
Viktor Frankl, who died in 1997 at age 92, was an Austrian psychiatrist who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War II. He was stripped of his identity as a medical doctor and forced to work as a common laborer. His father, mother, brother, and his wife died in the concentration camps. All his notes, which represented his life’s work, were destroyed. Yet Frankl emerged from Auschwitz believing that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances” (from The Daily Bread).
We may not be able to choose or control our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude toward them. The Apostle Paul gave us an example of how this works. He wrote to the church at Philippi: “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11,13).
Whatever our circumstances may be—even imprisonment in North Korea or Auschwitz, or Rome (from which Paul wrote Philippians!)—we can draw on the power of the indwelling Christ for the strength to face them. We need to focus on what we can control—our attitude. We always have a choice—and that choice will make a difference.
There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and she had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmmm,” she said, “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did and she had a grand day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said, “today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did, and she had a fun, fun day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “YAY!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!” Attitude is everything!
Charles Swindoll, pastor and author, said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you—we are in charge of our attitudes.”
Long-time UCLA basketball coach John Wooden (a committed Christian) said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out!” Some ships sail east and some sail west by the same wind that blows. It’s the set of the sail, not the gale, that determines the way she goes. You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails. Focus on what you can (with God’s help) control—your attitude.
A day usually goes the way the corners of your mouth are turned—so, have a wonderful day, unless, of course, you have other plans!