I was talking recently with one of the gals I have worked with for over a year through CLDI’s Hannah House Ministries. As I listened to her share what she was struggling with the thought came to my mind that she had two options for moving forward: she could change her circumstances or change her attitude. It’s times like these I can easily see that God wanted me to hear those words as much as He meant them for her. Since having that conversation with my friend, I’ve thought long and hard about how I can apply that phrase to my own life. My month of December has been marked with anxiety. Yes, I’ve gone through worries and stresses, but I can say I’ve never taken on anxiety in the way it’s presented itself to me as the year 2015 draws to a close. My stomach is in knots even as I write this.
The line of work that I’m in doesn’t help me much when it comes to anxiety. I work with many women in crisis, women who have walked away from addiction and unhealthy living situations, women who are learning how to live life well, differently than they ever have before. I walk with women through relapses and bad decisions, and at times watch them walk away from our program, losing that relationship that has taken time to build. I don’t know the choices people I’m surrounded with will make. Someone I’m drinking coffee and laughing with on Monday could be close to overdosing in a bathroom come Saturday. Someone who is experiencing the difference having a real home at the Hannah House makes in her life could return to an abusive relationship at any time. In the midst of such uncertainty, I do know that every woman I come in contact with, whether in recovery or not, is loved with an everlasting love by God, valued and created in His image. The most important lesson that I have had to learn from all of this is that I cannot want another’s recovery worse than they do. It’s easy to get frustrated with the brokenness I’m surrounded by, with the feeling that what I do on a day to day basis makes no difference. It’s hard to want to build a relationship with yet another woman, never being sure of how genuine she is, how I will be used, and whether she will truly work to be healthy or go back to her old way of life. I can’t change the circumstances of my line of work, especially when I know that God has me right where He wants me, but I can change my attitude. In times of frustration and whenever a challenge comes up for those who share their struggles with me, I have been learning to stop and ask: “What is true of God in the midst of this situation?” This truth is unchanging when we cannot trust in the surety of our circumstances.
To be honest, I don’t face any challenging circumstances in my personal life as of today, and that makes me all the more frustrated because of the metaphorical “rocks in my shoes” that have contributed to worry and anxiety during this season of life. There are some circumstances that I simply cannot change. God has been showing me that I can change my attitude and the way I feel about things. It’s not easy, and I believe that the best lessons of life are learned in the journey, not the outcome. He’s teaching me that keeping my eyes on Him requires the discipline of prayer and “taking captive every thought” (2 Cor. 10:5) when my mind wanders to what will bring anxiety. I can’t change my attitude on my own; it’s turning my mind to Him and letting Him do the work that truly brings peace in the midst of storms.
A line that has been encouraging to me from “Satisfied in You (Psalm 42)” by the Sing Team is, “You’re the one who made the waves, and Your Son went out to suffer in my place, and to tell me that I’m safe. So why am I down, why so disturbed? I am satisfied in You.”
As 2015 comes to a close and many of us desire to begin the New Year with resolutions in place to become “better,” let’s evaluate our ability to change our circumstances and attitudes. Ultimately, our circumstances cannot be changed without first changing our attitudes. My attitude cannot be changed without first surrendering my heart and mind to Christ and allowing Him to do the transformative work that makes a lasting difference, changing any and all circumstances and attitudes that are not of God.
– Muriah Stahl, Hannah House Director