No need to sing the moody blues

I wasn't in the mood to write this column. Too many things on the to-do list, excessive commitments... all the usual excuses. Besides, it's still too painful to try to function after the messy San Diego Chargers loss to the New York Jets in mid-January.

Silly, isn't it? So much can have an impact on our moods. Who wins, who loses, unresolved issues, daily frustrations, self-inflicted mistakes and yes, unsettled sins. Big things and little things. Interestingly some of the worst mood swings can be triggered by the most insignificant. Some call this the kick-the-cat syndrome: A good frame of mind quickly turns sour, and in the midst of the shift a cat walks by, bearing the brunt of something that was not its doing. Ouch.

Back to sports. As much as I know that a game-is-a-game, when "our" team lets us down, it's easy to get a bit low. I think everyone in Southern California expected to be wearing Super Bowl merchandise now, all the way until baseball season.

So much for best-laid plans. Emotions tied to escapist entertainment are understandable, but dangerous when they become consuming. I know some people who won't go out of the house for days after a big loss.

Just listen to sports radio. It can make you crazy. I can't help but wonder how some people can get so worked up, hyper-passionate about games while showing no interest in political events, not the least of which are wrapped up in the health of the economy, taxing citizens into oblivion and fighting terrorism. The same goes for spiritually related issues. Again, there's nothing wrong with a little change of pace and home-team rooting, but not at the expense of totally ignoring reality and what matters more.

It's all centered on moods. Sure, we want to be in a good mood (and fight the bad ones) but too often we want someone else to provide it. It's easy to think "If only."  If only: Someone would appreciate me and treat me better, give me a raise, fix this problem or that... why THEN I'd be in a better mood. The fact is, it's up to each of us to determine how we'll handle each day, with God's help, managing our moods.


Nagging distractions
Satan loves messing with our moods. When all seems well, life is

running on all cylinders and our spiritual priorities are in order, here they come: Distractions, nagging doubts, the woulda-coulda-shoulda's of life, paranoia and yes, even guilt. He hits our hot buttons. When this happens, the last thing he wants us to do is to get closer to God. But that's how to change the pattern. Keep short accounts with God, stay in regular conversation and praise, then a faster return to a better frame of mind is much more likely.

I love what Oswald Chambers wrote to Christians about this subject. He noted "Moods go by kicking," in other words, knock 'em out of your life!


Take action
Pray, yes, but also take action. He writes, "We must not submit to them for a second." Tall order, but workable. He has some fun with the process, too, saying, "It is a great thing to have something to neglect in your life, a great thing for your moral character to have something to snub." Yes, bad moods are "snubbable" (a word I may have just made up). We can choose to be consumed by our moods or rise above them.

Not that moods and related jitters are anything new to man. We're humans, warts and all, subject to an emotional rollercoaster at times. That's why it's also crucial to remember that God is not party to the same attitude swings.

Remember Malachi 3:6? "For I am the Lord AND I DO NOT CHANGE." That's pretty clear. He's the same God, the same power, not stuck in ups and downs. Just in case, there's also a reminder that because of this truth "you are not consumed." People of faith have power to overcome the negative cycles and toss bad moods away, like flicking lint off of a jacket.


Praise in tragedy
When the horrible earthquake struck Haiti last month, the continuous news images of the pain and suffering touched everyone. It's difficult to deal with, especially when considering the years of extended disaster ahead. But I was moved by a report showing Haitian Christians worshiping and praising God, singing with hope... in the middle of hell. It's not easy, but they know by what they believe that there are still reasons to celebrate, to look up and be immersed in blessings and joy.  Now that's real-life inspiration.

No matter the circumstance, we can tap into God and fight, ignoring the bad and embracing the good. We can find brightness in the dark, encouragement in the storm and even blessings in the midst of misery.  When the daily challenges come and the blues take over, getting out of the funk is all about responding rather than reacting in a knee-jerk manner. What works is taking a moment to rest in the reality that God still cares, and remains in charge, and He will make all the difference.


Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 7 to 9 a.m. Email: mark@marklarson.com.

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Published, February 2010