A few months ago, I had an experience which affected me profoundly. It was my birthday. I went for a run down to the waterfront and sat for a little while on the beach looking out at peaceful waves lapping the shore. Since it was my birthday, I was in a bit of a thoughtful mood, reviewing my life and the events of the past year. I began thanking God for each blessing he had given me and all the good things in my life.
As I did so, something began to shift inside me. I suddenly realized I had been very ungrateful lately, disgruntled and upset about certain things I felt I should have that I didn’t. Instead of focusing on the many blessings I did have, I had been choosing to focus on the things I didn’t. I allowed those things to fill my view and depress my mood so that I was unhappy about my life. But when I began to praise God for the good things I did have, I suddenly realized I actually had a very good life and many, many things to be thankful for.
Gratefulness or ingratitude, contentment or unhappiness, are all a matter of perspective. I can be content with the many blessings God has given me, or I can choose to focus on things I think I should have but don’t. The first way is a way of light, peace, and happiness; and what’s more, it accords with reality. The second is a way of darkness and unhappiness, and buys into the lie that God hasn’t given me everything I need or isn’t good to me. Same life, two totally different perspectives that change everything about how I feel and what I see.
The apostle Paul urges us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18) That’s something I’m still working on when it comes to circumstances I outright don’t like. But it's something I want to be better at.