Not long after my brain surgery, I started making a list of all my blessings. It was eye opening. I worked on it for several weeks and compiled page after page worth of blessings. From the mundane to the extraordinary, it was obvious I had much to be thankful for, despite the many issues I was dealing with. The problem was, I stopped the list. It wasn’t that the blessings stopped, they didn’t. I got complacent and grew tired of the exercise.
Not long after that, I started to take inventory of my losses. I still struggle with this from time to time, especially when I experience some sort of setback. I make the mistake of looking behind or in the wrong direction then I get easily derailed and can find myself sinking into a pit of despair. I neglect to focus on the incredible gift of grace given to us by Jesus Christ. I choose to push my Costco sized cart of grievances down the aisle of self pity. We tend to conveniently miss that section of the store which displays our many blessings and overlooks our own indiscretions. Look what they have, what they get to do and where they get to go. I can’t do or have this or that. Just look at all I have to deal with that they don’t. Remember what they did to us? Where were they when we so desperately needed help and on and on? It’s easy to focus on your problems and convince yourself how bad things are and that everyone else except for you is leading a charmed existence. Anti-social media does nothing but hasten the angst. Those negative thoughts lead to complaining. Complaining is a virus. Like termites destroying a home, if not kept in check, it can mutate and spread like wild fire and take over your life. No one wants to be around an ungrateful complainer.
Instead of focusing on my blessings, I can get mired in a meltdown of pain and past hurts. In 2017 and subsequent years, we were hit with what seemed like waves of traumatic events for us, my health being just a portion. I ride a roller coaster of emotion based on what I choose to think about. It doesn’t mean that what happened to us was not significant. It was life changing. I had to learn to let go of the negative and move on. I had to learn to be content. It was a choice. Being in the habit of giving thanks helps prepare you for those times when life throws you curveballs and you struggle with feeling grateful. It became apparent that I had to focus on my relationship with Christ. It forced me to do some serious soul searching. I now realize that God used that pain to steer me in a direction of greater awareness. It doesn’t undo what I went through, it just helps clarify the blessings for me. I may never have fully appreciated the awesome miracles He has blessed us with without going through those painful experiences.
There is a story of an Englishman during WWII who, upon staring at the crater in the ground that was now where his house once stood, remarked that he always wanted a basement, now he could rebuild the house the way he always wanted. If we so cling to the past hurts, we risk losing sight of current and future blessings. You can’t undo what’s been done. You can choose how to deal with it though. You can learn from it, grow from the experience and move on. But can you be thankful for that hard thing especially when the wound is fresh? We don’t normally view problems and difficulties as something to be grateful for.
Being grateful helps you you develop a positive attitude by focusing on all God is doing for you, not on what you think you lack. When we are used to having so much, we tend to take our blessings for granted. We expect the flood of earthly gifts to continue endlessly. We fixate on the facade of those we think have it so much better, while completely missing the hordes of the less fortunate and ignoring the gift of grace that Christ has provided for us. I have learned an exercise I like to use on myself that helps remind me that I have been given more than I deserve. Every time I think of a negative experience I attach an “at least” to it to remind myself of something positive about it. For instance, my leg is really hurting today, at least I have a leg to hurt. No matter how bad this life has been for you, at least you can accept Jesus Christ as your savior and rest in the joy of a heavenly future.
Several centuries ago, Bible scholar Mathew Henry recorded this after being mugged: Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
The world can be a cold, miserable, painful place. You may think it’s hard to feel contented and thankful when mired in the midst of any of a number of problems this world serves up. It seems unreasonable to be content, even thankful when you are in the pit of despair and yet the apostle Paul was able to do exactly that, and instructs us to do likewise.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:4-13
Guard your thoughts. Don’t let yourself fall into the pit of negativity. No matter how bad things may seem, Jesus Christ provides the solution. “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”1 Samuel 12:24,
Two Thought Cancers: IF and WHEN