"A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones."
I decided to share the above Bible quote today for 2 reasons. First, it ties in with my blog friend Trace's decision to choose joy, & second, the doctor I visited last Tuesday made it a point to talk about it. He was explaining to me how our attitude toward things can literally make us sick. I am going to try to explain this as he did. Apparently a lot of our illnesses have a connection to our blood. Where are our blood cells made? In our bones! If the Bible tells us that a broken spirit (bitterness, hatred, anger, self-pity, etc) dries up the bones, then it certainly affects our blood & therefore illness will enter our lives. Now I know you can't point at a child & say they have an incurable illness because of their bitterness & self-pity, but when a person is older & they are stricken with some sort of disease, they have 2 choices. They can become bitter & angry, focus on "why me," & spend whatever time they have left on this earth making themselves & everyone around them miserable ... or they can choose to have a positive attitude finding joy in the things they can do & the people around them.
I have a very dear friend who has muscular dystrophy. She was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 13 & was told that she wouldn't live past the age of 21. At first she had a hard time dealing with this as she found her body not being able to do the things that other girls her age were doing ... but after a while she decided that she could either be miserable & chase everyone away from her, or she could choose to be happy & take advantage of as many possibilities as she could. When she turned 21, her doctors told her "well, you won't live past 30." When she turned 30, they said "you won't live past 40." Today she is 58. The dystrophy has robbed her of being able to do many things & has brought other complications with it ... congestive heart failure, Raynaud's disease, thyroid problems, & joint pains, just to name a few. When I met her she could drive but needed to use a cane to get around. Eventually she needed a wheelchair if she was going to be out & about for very long. Then she needed to stay in the wheelchair all the time. She cannot turn herself in bed. She cannot even get out of bed. She has a machine built into the ceiling of her bedroom which hooks around her chest & sort of drags her across the room to her wheelchair in the mornings. She needs help with just about everything she does. Right now the disease has progressed to the point where she cannot raise her arms more than a few inches above her waist. She is housebound for the most part. I do not know how I would handle these things if they were happening to me but my friend never complains. She sews, paints beautifully, makes handmade lace, grows orchids, & has a degree in entomology. She said once that she had the choice to either be bitter about having this disease & make everyone around her so miserable that they wouldn't want to be around her & she would end up bitter & alone, or she could choose to find joy where she could. She chose joy.
Sometimes when I find myself complaining about something, I will think of my friend & it's like an immediate wake-up call. I can get out of my bed in the morning by myself ... no machine or help needed. I can walk out into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. I can wash my own dishes. I can do my own laundry. I can clean my own house. I can weed my own garden. I can drive myself anywhere I want to go. I can shop & carry home my purchases. I can decorate my Christmas tree.
There is always something in our lives to be thankful for ... always something in which we can find joy. There is a poem I memorized as a teenager because it made such an impact on me. The title of the poem is Desiderata. One of the last lines in the poem is "With all its sham, drudgery, & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." It is. We just need to choose a good attitude. We need to choose joy.