I'm convinced that the key to being miserable is selfishness. Have you ever thought about that? When you are always putting yourself in every circumstance and making everything about you, you are a miserable person and you're usually making everyone around you miserable too!
I've been a Christian now for about thirty years, and believe me, I've learned through a lot of painful experiences about what makes me happy and what makes me miserable. In the beginning, I was a very self-centered person, and even now I have to fight that tendency every single day.
Learning to live for others isn't something that just comes naturally to anybody. You have to train yourself to do it. It's just like running a marathon: Even though some might be more athletic and handle training more easily than others, anyone who wishes to run that far has to go through it.
Living for others is the same way. It requires training and practice. It takes patience and discipline to do the things that aren't second nature for you and me. I like to say you have to do it "on purpose." You have to get up in the morning and purposely help or give or share with someone else.
Think about it… Have you ever noticed that you don't have to teach little kids to be greedy or selfish? Those negative tendencies just come naturally. But you do have to teach children to share and be kind to one another. Little ones have to learn that they aren't the center of the universe and there are more important things than making them happy all the time. Sadly, some children grow into adulthood never learning these valuable lessons.
It's time to stop being selfish, attending only to your own needs. It's time to begin focusing your attention outwardly. You need to train yourself to think of others and their needs and desires. If selfishness is the key to being miserable, then selflessness must be the key to being happy!
The Bible says in James 4:3, [Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures (The Amplified Bible).
This verse clearly states that selfish motives will actually hinder your prayers. That's how dangerous a selfish attitude can be. I am a strong believer in the power of prayer, and knowing that a self-centered attitude can actually undermine the power of prayer is enough motivation for me to change my attitude and learn to live for others. I, for one, need God to answer my prayers. I used to have a bracelet that I was very fond of. It was beautiful, and I thought it looked very good on my wrist. I had been praying that God would train me to live for others, and I felt that He was leading me to give that bracelet to a woman I knew. It was tough, but I gave it away. The most difficult part, however, was seeing the bracelet on her wrist every time I saw her. I had to continue to battle that selfish attitude anytime I was around her. I was feeling the pain of learning to die to myself and live for others. Denying yourself is tough, no question about it. But disciplined training is always hard. It's supposed to be.
What about you? How are you handling this battle with self? God wants to help you shift your inward focus on yourself to an outward focus on others. He wants you to overcome the bondage of living selfishly and find the freedom that comes from living for others.