Children usually offer a fresh perspective. I had been brushing my youngest daughter’s teeth when out of the blue she asked me: “Mommy, do we have an easy life?”
Life doesn’t always feel easy, but I didn’t want to answer negatively and squash her preciously childlike sense of comfort. On the other hand, I also didn’t want to give her a false impression that life never has its challenges. Sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics:
“What do you think?” I asked. “Do you ever have to worry whether you have enough food?”
“No.” she answered.
“Do you ever have to sleep out in the cold?”
This question seemed to strike a chord.
“No. I have a nice warm bed . . .”
She wrapped her arms around herself in a warm self-squeeze sort of way, then continued with dreamy appreciation:
” . . . it protects me from frostbite . . . and from tarantulas . . . and from being run over!”
Now, Frostbite I can understand since we are Minnesotans . . . but tarantulas? Being run over? Though these never would have occurred to me, they were obviously an important matter to my then six-year-old daughter, and I could only conclude that she was better off because of it – after all, she had two extra items on her list of thanksgivings than I had considered. She bounced off with renewed joy and contentment in this newfound revelation. Life really is a matter of perspective.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
Life isn’t always easy. Whether it be in our health, our careers, or our relationships, we will have seasons in which joy seems far-off. These are not the times to retreat into our own self-pity, as fun as that may be. And if you’re not dead, then these are not the times to roll over and play as though you are. Rather, these are times for battle. As the enemy tries to gain territory in our thought-life, our choice weapon should be thanksgiving.
Using marriage as just one example, I’ve no doubt that those who’ve been married at least a decade can attest to some years being more trying than others. With permission from my wonderful husband, I can share that over the last 12 years of our marriage, there were times he didn’t seem so wonderful. Had I allowed myself to dwell on every offense I believed he’d committed, then I might as well have set out the welcome mat for misery. And to be fair, I’m sure he’s experienced ample reasons to share these same sentiments.
Thankfully, God is an optimist. Though He is not ignorant of our shortcomings, His focus is on both our current progress and our potential. I needed to rein in my negative thoughts toward my husband and direct them toward anything and everything in him for which I could give thanks . . . whatever was noble in him, right, pure, lovely, admirable . . . anything that was excellent or praiseworthy. As it turns out, the best prescription for my unhappiness was to follow God’s suit and intentionally choose optimism. Optimism identifies both the present and the potential blessings in our lives.
I’m blessed to have a husband with many admirable qualities, and I realize that others’ circumstances can be far more trying than my own. The prescription does not change, however. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Similarly, Ephesians 5:20 states, ” . . . always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is not to say that we should be thankful for everything in and of itself. Gratitude is not intended for anything outside of God’s will. While we may not be thankful for each circumstance, we can choose to be thankful within each circumstance. After all, sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics! My daughter was thankful that she had a warm bed which protected her not only from frostbite but also supposedly from tarantulas and being run over. I can be thankful for that and so much more! Even if all else fails, I still know One who loves me. I know One who listens to me, One who leads me and never leaves me, and One whose joy is for eternity – Jesus Christ. That’s enough to fill my jar more than half full!
” . . . my cup runneth over . . .”
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