Revive your enthusiasm to jump-start your life

Can you revive your enthusiasm after being battered so badly by the world that discouragement feels like your normal state of mind?

It's a challenge. Too much disappointment tends to harden us. We draw back from life, not wanting to be hurt again. Expectations have been shattered so many times we turn into zombie singles, shuffling along half-alive.

Enthusiasm? That's for little kids.

For much longer than I care to admit, I was one of those flat-liners. I couldn't work up much interest in anything. Gradually I pulled out of it, but only because I got sick and tired of a life dominated by apathy.

"Enough of this," I finally told myself. "I want to get back the excitement I once had."

Enthusiasm: refuge of the naive?

When we're young and naive, we're all enthusiastic. "This is going to be great!" "I'm really looking forward to that." "I can't wait for the weekend!"

Over the years, life has a way of hammering you down. With each setback, some of our zest drains out. Put a decade or two of disenchantment together and you start to believe a person would have to be brain-dead to get passionate about anything.

"Life was more fun when you had the spark. You had simple joy instead of a protective  shell around you."

Enthusiasm, you think, is for the naive, and you're no longer naive.

No, you're not. You're mature now. You've seen and done your share. Things have not worked out the way you wanted. You don't have that spark you did years ago.

But like me, maybe you realize life was more fun when you had the spark. You had simple joy instead of a protective shell around you.

It's time to take a risk instead of plodding along like a turtle. You want to get your passion back.

How to turn it around

The first step in getting your bounce back requires you to start being thankful for what you do have, instead of bemoaning what you don't have or what you've lost.

My pastor often reminds us how rich we are. In America, we easily forget. We take for granted our food, our home, our car, even our friends and family. We act as if all this is owed to us. It's not. Millions of people, even in the United States, are suffering because they don't have the basics you and I enjoy every day.

Being grateful really is the key to getting your enthusiasm back. Do you truly enjoy each meal? Do you thank God for it? Do you consider all the work of other people that went into the ingredients? Do you ever think about what a wonder it is to go into a market and be able to buy delicious food from all over the world? It actually is an amazing thing. Have you ever been hungry for days or weeks at a time? No? Then thank God for that.

One of the things that makes me feel most grateful is my freedom. Recently I was walking my dog in the rain, miserable because I was getting soaked. Then I thought about the men in Pontiac Correctional Center, a maximum security prison about 30 miles away. How they would love to walk in the rain and get soaked, but they can't. I can come and go as I please. I have a car. I can visit my family.

 Freedom is a priceless gift. Think about yours and be grateful.

Most of you reading this are free to go to church and worship God. That too is a priceless gift.

You and I have so much to be thankful for that we should be ashamed when we take it for granted. Thinking about this every day will break your cycle of cynicism. It will return your enthusiasm for the simple but important things of life.

Something to look forward to

The second step in regaining your enthusiasm is having something to look forward to. This is so important I wrote an entire article about it.

Having something to look forward to puts excitement back in your life. It returns that feeling you had as a child counting the days until Christmas. It doesn't have to be as elaborate (and expensive) as an exotic vacation, but it should be something you genuinely enjoy. I look forward to cooking a tasty meal for myself. I also look forward to a relaxing evening when I've had a busy day.

Make sure the event you look forward to doesn't compete with anybody or that you don't do it to impress anyone. When our lives revolve around one-upping someone, the satisfaction from that is hollow. Life is about helping other people, not beating them at something.

After you experience your anticipated event, don't let any feelings of disillusionment spoil it for you. If it wasn't as great as you thought it would be, remember that it's not the end of the world. The true goal here is not to pile one perfect occasion on top of another. It's to restore enthusiasm to your life.

This step will help you climb out of a rut. Routine is comforting for us singles, but a break stretches us. Doing something different expands your horizons. It can build courage. It can remind you it's not crucial to be so serious all the time.

As you grow as a person, you'll feel good about these changes, no matter how small they are. And that, in itself, is something to look forward to.

Reacquaint yourself with God

The final step is re-examining your relationship with God. I began to do that about nine years ago when I changed churches. For most of my life, I felt as if I didn't measure up. I felt that God was disappointed with me. Worst of all, I mistakenly believed I could make up for my shortcomings by doing good works.

At my new church, I learned to see God in a new light. For the first time, I grasped God's tremendous love for me — not because of anything I did — but simply because God is gracious and kind. What a difference it made in my life!

My enthusiasm began to come back. I stopped struggling. I rested in the assurance of God's love, beginning to recognize everything in my life as gifts from him.

Like most people, we singles tend to judge God on the basis of our circumstances. When things are going well, we assume God loves us. When things are going badly, we think God is punishing us.

But the truth is that God loves you consistently, constantly, and is especially close to you during hard times. When you cry, God is sad too.

To finally understand that you are passionately loved by God brings your enthusiasm back. Nothing is more affirming that knowing the Creator of the Universe finds you worthy of his love. That fact, fellow single, turns your life around. It did for me and it can for you.

When you realize God is on your side supporting you, you can be enthusiastic again because you know that no matter what happens, your story is going to turn out all right. Despite sorrow and heartbreak, you know God has you in his grip and will never let go.

           That's something to do the Happy Dance about!

Step out in faith. Be enthusiastic and hopeful. It's the very best way to live.

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