Monday, August 25, 2014

being thankful in all circumstances.

Something the Lord has been teaching me lately, namely through the work of a friend, is that I should be thankful in all circumstances. Naturally you would think that this means thinking something like, "Well it could be worse..." While yes, this is true, this isn't always a healthy way to look at life.

I think one thing we all take for granted in life are the days and moments where everything is okay. Nothing is necessarily wrong, and things are going smoothly.  Sometimes this might only be an hour, maybe only ten or twenty minutes.  If you are fortunate, this can look like only one or two days when everything is just fine.  As soon as we hit that line of days, or weeks, or even months when things aren't going smoothly we say things like, "nothing ever goes my way!" or "why does it always have to be me!?" These are what we in psychology call 'absolutes.' Absolutes are toxic and are big lies - some of the biggest lies all of us have told and sometimes can be even harmful to those around us in different ways.  When you fill your mind with the thought that you are always a victim of your circumstances and it's always you being thrown under the bus, cleaning up after someone else, or simply that your plans never go the way you want them to go, you start to do something very toxic: you begin to harbor bitterness.  That bitterness grows into more morbid figures like anger, jealously, selfishness, self-righteousness, and entitlement. Of course, when you're so far into this way of living it's hard to see how far into bitterness you have actually gone.  As bitterness festers, eating off of toxic thoughts like, "I deserve..." or "nothing ever goes my way," or "this always happens to me," your heart figuratively grows harder and is more difficult to soften and mold.  Why is it that you would pray, "Lord, have your way with me; change me from the inside out," then continue to let bitterness grow into entitlement and self-righteousness?  

So what does this have to do with thankfulness? Thankfulness, in my opinion, is the antithesis of bitterness.  Rather than polluting your mind with toxic thoughts like the ones I've already stated, replace those thoughts with, "This very minute is completely fine. It may not stay this way past this minute, but this minute is what is good right now." When plans start to get slippery and obligations pile up, life will become harder. People will be people: not always reliable, a little whiny, never meeting the expectations you may have, but this should be no surprise to any of us.  Instead of lingering on what goes wrong according to our standards, appreciate the few precious moments you do have that bring the peace you desire.  Over time it will become easier and easier for you to salvage these moments for everything they are worth, knowing that again you will experience them no matter how long it is until you experience them again.  In the meantime, while life is more difficult to manage, be thankful instead that you are not constantly living in absolutes; be thankful that you have the opportunity to walk in God's will when times are tough. When you pray, practice the prayer that you pray or you will not know the joy that comes with being thankful.

"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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