Have you ever thought of the fact that you, yourself, are the only person who has power over your reactions in life?
Not only that, but the way you react to the things that you meet in life will determine the degree of your happiness or unhappiness. Your reaction and only your reaction, is the determining factor.
Whatever happens to you in life, whatever others say or do, these things in themselves have no bearing on your happiness or unhappiness; they neither add to it nor detract from it. This probably doesn’t sound right, because it is the exact opposite of the way most people think and speak. But, nonetheless, it is a marvelous truth! The more you try it, the clearer it will become to you.
No one can make you sin!
There is hardly anything more foolish than making excuses for yourself and putting the blame on others. What others say or do affects their happiness but not yours—no, not in the least. Your own sin causes you to react to things in a way that is harmful to you. It is very easy to think that what others say or do has hurt you; nearly everyone is as sure of this as they are that two and two make four. And yet, it is not true.
In order to react to everything in a way that will increase—and not decrease—your happiness, you must seek—and find—a radical salvation and liberation from the power of sin. Only then will you be able to react to everything and everyone in a way that will not disturb your present joy, but will increase it instead.
Temptation = Opportunity
The following example illustrates the mistake that most people make: Someone does something evil to you. You aren’t able to bear it, and so you, too, become evil. Then you rationalize that if the person hadn’t said or done this evil thing to you, you wouldn’t have become evil. In other words, it is the other person’s fault. On the surface this would seem to be right, but it isn’t. In fact, it is wrong, very wrong.
The right understanding is this: The other person’s bad behavior brought you into temptation, thus giving you a new opportunity to overcome, and an opportunity to add to your ultimate victor’s crown. But, instead of overcoming, you fell in the temptation. It was your fault. The source of the problem is your own evil nature.
It is absolutely wrong to say that you fell because of what the other person said or did. No, the other person’s behavior only brought to light the evil in you that had been there all the time. You fell simply because you were not saved from the power of sin, not because of what the other person did wrong. You reacted in the wrong way, the usual, sinful way, and it was totally unnecessary. You could have reacted in a godly way. You could have won a glorious victory! You had a wonderful opportunity, but you failed to make use of it.
It is faulty reasoning to think that you cannot help but become evil when someone else has been evil to you. That is completely wrong! Of course, as long as you are evil, it is true that evil reactions are unavoidable. But you can be saved from this habitual way of reacting to things. Just read the third epistle of John!
Reactions – leading to life or death
Eve could have reacted differently; she could have told the serpent that they were very happy with everything just as it was, so there was no need whatsoever to eat of the forbidden fruit. Then there would not have been a “fall,” the resulting bad conscience, the resulting banishment from the Garden of Eden, sickness or death.
If Adam had reacted differently, he would have refused Eve’s offer to eat of the forbidden fruit, and sin would not have gained entrance into the world.
If Jesus had reacted differently—if He had, for example, been righteous in everything but had been absolutely unwilling to suffer injustice—then there would not be an atonement or salvation at all. He, the Just One, would have remained together with His Righteous Father, and all of us would be lost. How unspeakably wonderful that He chose to respond in the loving way that He did!!
You can have an immovable joy
You, too, by suffering unjustly, can win other souls whom you would not otherwise be able to win. To quarrel about your rights, to insist on them, or to sue your fellow man is an extremely foolish and dangerous way of life. Instead, you can react in each situation of life in such a way that it enables you to keep your joy, regardless of how things or people are.
If a man had very little food—perhaps only bread, with nothing to put on the bread—this in itself could not dampen his joy. But dissatisfaction with what he has and a demanding attitude for having more and better—as well as having evil thoughts about those who have an abundance—will make him unhappy! Without a shadow of a doubt, your way of reacting to things determines your happiness in life—there is no other factor. A simple but marvelous truth!
Faith in God’s perfect guidance of all things will bring you to a firm faith and confidence that everything that happens is for your very best. Then, of course, you can also rejoice always. What deep and genuine care God has for you! How faithfully He watches over you!
Trusting God in the midst of tragedy
What is the best way to react to accidents and death? These areas are essentially the same as any other. To be able to react in a godly way, you must, of course, through God’s salvation, have become godly. An ungodly person reacts in an ungodly way, whereas the godly person reacts in a godly way. In other words, a thorough salvation is required in order to be able to react as you ought to.
The Scriptures say, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” Amos 3:6. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:29-30. When we relate this to the fact that God knows what works together for our best and acts accordingly, we must necessarily conclude that no matter how sorrowful or unwanted the calamity, it is all the best that things happened as they did. And who would oppose what an all-wise, all-good God thinks is best?
In order to be able to react in this way, you must—absolutely, from the heart—forever have ceased to rely on your own reasoning, and God must also have molded you to such an extent that your mind has become yielding, humble, and meek. Then you will preserve that deep, inner peace and rest under all circumstances, no matter how painful the situation might be.
And, if any of your loved ones get into serious trouble, become unfaithful, or fall away from God, it is quite natural to think, “Oh, if only I had been able to keep this from happening!” But, with the understanding that God Himself—whose love is perfect—has not kept it from happening, you can be at rest in God, even in such an acutely painful situation, even though the sorrow is unspeakably great. For even with all our anxiety, we cannot make one hair black or white.
May this indisputable, all-encompassing, indescribably effective truth always be clear and living for us—namely, that our reaction is the single determining factor in our happiness!
This is an edited exerpt from the pamphlet “Reactions,” first published in 1957 by Skjulte Skatters Forlag. It has been translated from Norwegian.
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