Following Jesus is hard. The way of Christ demands courage, perseverance, patience and integrity. It is both exhausting and exhilarating. We are not guaranteed peace, material wealth, food or shelter. We can wind up in difficult circumstances and still the call remains the same. We are to follow Him unwaveringly while continuing to love and serve others regardless of our own situation. The burden of life can become overbearing if we try and shoulder it ourselves. We are promised to never receive more than we can carry, but think how much more we could manage if we put the burden on Jesus himself! How does one maintain a positive and loving mental attitude though the trials of life? The answer can be summed up simply in one word: gratitude.
It’s virtually impossible to be negative in the midst of being grateful. To say each day is a gift may sound a bit cliché, but it remains true. Some days everything just seems to go right, everything comes up roses and you fall asleep just grateful to be alive. Others days, well, not so much. Perhaps though, the purpose of that day is to be a gift for someone else. Perhaps in your despair you have the opportunity to touch the life of another. Then, just maybe, because of your act of love they too will be thankful just to be alive. So each day is a gift; it’s either a gift you give or one you receive.
Before bed each night, or upon waking, run through your gratitude list. To help you get started, here are a few suggestions I’ve picked up over the years:
Possessions – Grab a notebook and pen and start walking around the place you live making a list of all your possessions. Make sure you have plenty of paper, as this is always a long and humbling experience. What I find generally happens is that I quit after filling a couple of pages. You become overwhelmed and perhaps even a little ashamed by the sheer quantity of all we possess. We may at times feel like we don’t have enough or at least not as much as our friends and neighbors, but the truth is if you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance that you are incredibly blessed. Look again at the “Global Rich List” web site to determine your level of wealth in the world. Don’t compare yourself to those who you perceive to be wealthy by the world’s standards; compare yourself with those who are wealthy by God’s standards. If you are still not convinced, try volunteering at a homeless shelter or local soup kitchen. We are immeasurably blessed and should wake grateful of this fact each day.
Health – All over the world, hundreds of men, women and children die every second from preventable diseases. Malnutrition and dirty water wreak havoc on the bodies of millions resulting in the inability to work and permanent damage to the basic functions of their minds and their bodies. The ravages of war strip away the dreams of youth as injuries change the lives of the afflicted soldiers forever. Meanwhile our biggest health concern is the choice between the smaller or larger piece of cake. If you are breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and have food in your cupboards, your health exceeds that of nearly half of the world’s population. We all have our aches and our pains, but these are petty annoyances when compared to the plight of poverty stricken nations. Check out the work being done by ministries such as World Vision and Persecution Project. Learn about the needs of the least, the lost and the last. Flex your muscles, breathe deeply and enjoy a glass of water in gratefulness for your blessings of health.
Relationships – Nearly all of us have someone in our lives for whom we can be grateful. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, child or family member, most of us have the privilege of caring for or being cared for by another person. Even for those who truly are alone in this world, if you have a relationship with Jesus, you are truly never alone (if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, or are confused about what that means, please see “What does it mean to be a Christian?” or email me to discuss it). Millions of people around the world have absolutely no one with whom they share a relationship. Young children orphaned by the scourge of AIDS find themselves with no parents, no family, and no hope. They need someone to come along side of them; they desperately need Jesus in their lives. When you feel lonely, when you have been badly burned in a relationship, when you’re at your worst, would you trade places with these children? Of course not, because you still enjoy and experience the love of other relationships. Humbly thank God for the blessings of others and more importantly of Himself, in your life.
We have much for which to be grateful. It is easy to get caught up in our selfishness and self pity. Make a regular habit of noticing all the blessings in your life. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and you will find it virtually impossible to be depressed. After recognizing all of your blessings, consider passing them along. Help those in need and bring hope to those in despair. Thank God for His love, mercy and blessings. Be humble and live in a manner that reflects your gratitude.