How Pollyanna Made Me More Joyful
When I was growing up I read the children’s classic ‘Pollyanna’ and it totally changed my thinking for life. Even though it’s not a Christian book I believe it encourages a Biblical principle, although I think it is missing one important thing.
The glad game
‘Pollyanna’ is all about a young girl who plays a game called ‘The Glad Game’. It started when her father was a missionary and they would get a missionary barrel every so often with various items and clothes that had been donated. She really wanted a pretty dress so she prayed and hoped that the next barrel would have one in it. But instead the next barrel came… and there was a pair of crutches! She was devastated. But her father challenged her to think of something to be glad about – and said “You can be glad that you don’t have to use them!” From that time on Pollyanna would play the glad game whenever something bad happened, and she even helped other people who were bitter to change into being cheerful.
My transition to rose-coloured glasses
After I read the book I started challenging myself to have the same outlook – which is similar to the saying ’Every cloud has a silver lining’. It helped me through many different times when bad things happened. Before I would have grumbled or been down in my spirits, but instead I deliberately looked for something good in the situation – and there was always something.
You might be thinking, “How is that Biblical?” Well Proverbs has quite a few verses talking about gladness, like this one: ‘A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.’ Prov 17:22 And ‘Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.’ Pro 12:25
One more thing
However there is one more thing that I think we need to add as Christians, which is to be glad in the Lord. Paul says ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice’ Phil 4:4. So we are not only to rejoice, but to rejoice in the Lord. The difference there is that we are thankful to God for the blessings we have, acknowledging where they come from. If you got a lovely Christmas present you would be happy, but you would also go and say thank you to the person who gave it to you. To omit doing that would be very ungrateful. And in the same way when we find something to be glad about, we should recognise where it comes from and thank God.
More than that we can also rejoice in the Lord because we know that He is in control of the situation, will work everything for our good (Rom 8:28) and won’t give us anything that we are not able to cope with (1 Cor 10:13). And we can rejoice in trials because they are perfecting us and making us more like Christ: ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.’ Jas 1:2,3
So my conclusion is that we should play the glad game, but in the Lord! When things happen that you’re inclined to grumble at, instead you could try thinking, ‘What is there that I can rejoice about?’ or ‘What can I thank God for?’ – and there will always be something. When my kids complain about food I often remind them that some children don’t have any food, so they can be thankful they have some! And as Proverbs and research says, happiness can make you healthier!
I should also qualify this with – it’s OK to grieve. Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave. But we can still rejoice in the midst of our circumstances – ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ 2 Cor 6:10
Have you ever had a bad situation happen that you were able to find something good in?