We have teens and preteens in our house, which means lots of emotional drama. Mood swings are commonplace. On any given day, a child might wake up cheerful, wander downstairs restless, shift on over to grumpy by breakfast, by lunchtime be all giggles again, and spend the afternoon angry. As parents, we’ve learned not to take it personally, and we take comfort that those moods—while they can swing wildly—are (thank goodness!) temporary.
It’s like seasons. If you don’t like the freezing cold, just hang on three months. Soon you’ll be dancing in flowers.
Moods are feeling-based, rooted in emotion. They tend to be affective, arising from these feelings and emotions. And they are subject to change—sometimes very quickly!
Mindsets are similar to moods, but they’re steadier. A mindset is more of a mental frame of mind, a collection of thoughts and beliefs that impact habits and inclinations. For instance, we can train ourselves to have a positive mindset, where we actively force out negative or doubtful thoughts and focus on what can be done, even if we are feeling melancholy.
When it comes to matters of the heart, mood might make us more inclined to “fall in love,” but it’s a mindset that frames the relationship, how we treat that person, whether we choose to walk down the aisle and say “I do”—and then stick with that person until you draw your last breath.
In matters of faith, sometimes we’re tempted to make choices based on our mood. We feel grumpy or restless, so we decide we’d rather flip through channels rather than pore through the Bible. We feel lonely, so we soothe our sadness with a feel-good vice instead of bringing our pain to the cross.
But when it comes to Christian discipleship, it’s about a mindset, not a mood.
- You can set your mind to studying the Bible and do it—even when you “don’t feel like it.”
- You can force yourself out the door and to church on a Sunday morning—even when you “don’t feel like it.”
- You can choose to tithe a portion of your paycheck to a ministry instead of spending it on a new thrill—even when you “don’t feel like it.”
It’s the same thing with other matters of faith, such as joy. In the midst of the most difficult circumstances, you can choose to push aside your worries, focus on the good, trust that God is handling it all, and rest in the joy and peace that comes with that knowledge. It doesn’t mean you need to “feel happy” when bad things happen. But joy isn’t necessarily the same thing as happiness. Joy is contentment, assurance that God has everything settled, understanding that no matter what happens, God wins in the end.
The apostle Paul faced great difficulties in his life. He was arrested, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and ultimately executed for his faith. Yet even in chains, Paul chose joy. In fact, many scholars say his letter to the Philippians—written while he was incarcerated—is infused with joy from start to finish. As he wrote to the early church in Philippi, “I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (Philippians 1:18b NLT).
Note the words “I will.” That’s a mindset! He strives to rejoice.
Sometimes we find ourselves in tough situations. We’ve lost someone we love, or we’re facing a dreadful illness. Maybe we’ve lost our belongings in a natural disaster, or we’ve been downsized just when the stock market took a nosedive.
It’s OK. Bad times, just like our lives in the grand scale of God’s plan, are temporary. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).
Set your mind on God, on His glory, and on what you can do for His kingdom here on earth.