There are several verses in this chapter that touch on the importance of attitude, which is all about our decisions not our circumstances. For instance:
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.
How exactly does one have a happy heart, especially in trying circumstances. The next verse gives us a hint:
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
What is a discerning heart? Here is a definition of the word: “the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently.” In other words dispassionately and accurately. And what is the beginning of knowledge? The fear of the Lord, of course. If we fear, i.e. revere, trust, live in awe of, the Lord, we won’t fear the circumstances or others. We won’t allow our imaginations to catasrophize. And what is folly? It is what the fool thinks, says and does contrary to knowledge, i.e. wisdom. The next verse says it again, but in a different way:
15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
What if we just don’t feel cheerful? Good question. But it raises another question. Why wouldn’t we be cheerful? Probably because how we envision the current situation or circumstances is just not what we want, damn it! I think that is possibly 95% of the reason why our attitude and feelings get gloomy. At those moments we simply do not believe “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Paul says we know this. No guesswork here. And what is this purpose Paul speaks of? It is in the verses that precede this promise:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
We live the present in the hope of the eschaton. Google translates this word simply as, “the final event in the divine plan; the end of the world.” We live in the already and the not yet. God has poured out his Spirit our hearts as a deposit “guaranteeing our inheritance,” as Paul says in Ephesians 1. As hard as it can be at times to realize this life doesn’t have ultimate meaning in and of itself, it is the truth. We are so time bound, we let temporal things and circumstances steal our joy. It’s not easy. But if what Paul says in Romans 8 is true, let us try to suffuse our imagination with that, instead of what we can only see. And God says “all,” so that means all the stupid and sinful stuff we do as well.
And I say 95% because there are times when living in a fallen world no matter how much we have confidence in God’s eternal plans is wearying. Even depressing. The pain, the suffering, the heartache, the longings and desires and plans never fulfilled. Nothing easy about it. Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb. There is something terribly wrong with this world, and Jesus came to set it all right. We, as Paul says again, “wait for it patiently.”