A timely topic as we pass through the Thanksgiving holiday and enter into Christmas. In life, it's easy to focus on the things we want and don't have. We see our neighbor with the new vehicle, we see our friend with the new tech gadget, we see all the highlight reels on social media that make it seem like they have the prefect kids, the perfect spouse, the best vacations. It's natural to compare those things with our life and think we're falling short. The way to combat that is to focus on the things you do have. Whether it's a lot or a little you have something; a life, your health, a vehicle, a bike, two strong legs, your mental faculties, a dream, food for the day, a place to stay tonight. By being thankful for what you have instead of complaining about what you don't have - you bring peace and joy into your life. Some practical ways to implement this is by having a gratitude journal, each day write down a few things you're thankful for. Prayer time each morning, on your knees Thanking God for another day - as each new dawn brings new opportunities with endless possibilities. Gratitude and thanksgiving are biblical principles written over 2000 years ago; Psalm 28:7 - The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you".
Give Thanks in ALL circumstances? Wait a minute why would I give thanks for losing my job, getting kicked out, my girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse leaving me, getting in a car accident, losing a loved one? James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. We're all going to face hardships in our life and we cannot control those circumstances. What we can control, however, is how we respond to those circumstances. We can get mad at the world and have a pity party or we can see it as a trial for our growth and development. It's the perspective we choose to have during that time, we can thank God for the chance to grow in this way, for the chance to connect with Him more deeply through this season of grief, to be Thankful that the door was closed because we know that it will lead to another opening that will ultimately be better for us.
Happiness is a choice, not a feeling. Today we can choose to be happy. We can live in complete joy and peace because we put our faith in God and know that He will protect us Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." WOW, the creator of the universe and all things, holding our hand through life and caring intimately about us and helping us individually! What an amazing God! I know these things to be true, not just because of the research I have done, but because I have lived the pain, I have struggled, I have angered, I tried to control everything and everyone around me, I have been mad at our politicians, at my life, at the things I fall short in, I have blamed others for all my problems, and I used alcohol to hide. I was miserable and God showed me a better way, He showed me what it's like to be thankful, to think on good things, to have gratitude and abide in Him. Those things have produced a kind of peace and joy in my life that provides so much comfort and security, no matter what happens in life, I know that God is there holding my hand and will use those trials for good. I wish the same peace and joy for you, it is possible and God is waiting for you to be Thankful so He can help you more.
After some major self-reflection this last year I have realized that I take for granted those I love the most. My family, In particular, my parents and my siblings. I guess I just figure that they will always be there. Why wouldn't I think that? They have always been there in the past. That is obviously not the reality of life because my brother is now thinking of moving out of State and my father-in-law has recently passed away. What a wakeup call! We never know when our time is up. So live life like it's your last day. Take advantage of the time you have with someone and make it meaningful. Sounds good but how do you put that into action. After all life still gets in the way, we get tired, stressed, overwhelmed. Bottom line is it all comes down to relationships and what we are setting as priorities in our life. For me I am making my family more of a priority. I am consciously and intentionally reaching out to my brothers and parents to build our relationship. Texting, calling, early morning coffee, dinner. And when you have those opportunities to spend time together get off your phone. Be engaged. Phones are great for a lot of things but they are also disconnecting us on a personal engagement level. Be present and enjoy 'quality' time with those you care about the most. Don't take them for granted because someday they'll be gone - or you will. (I am preaching to myself here too ;).
This holiday season is a time for family gatherings and quite frankly some family members are difficult to deal with. But remember, everyone has their own personal issues they're dealing with and you just don't know what it's like for them. All you can do is control yourself and your attitude. It was said over 2000 years ago that 'Love covers a multitude of sin.' So love them, meet them where they are - at their level, and be patient. You might just be amazed at how, in time, they will change after they see how you have changed.
- Steve H. Perrins II