I don’t think that we can be happy if we don’t have a sense of thanksgiving for the good things in our lives. Being thankful takes effort. Naturally, most of us focus on our problems, on what we lack and what ails us. Let’s face it…every one of us has some areas of our lives that are difficult and confusing. Some of these challenges are short term and some are life-long burdens. Some are self-inflicted and some are not our fault.
No matter how positive any one of us may be, there are times when a problem gets the best of us. I must admit, as I write this, I am preaching to myself as well as sharing my thoughts with you. Last week at work, for example, I let some of the pressures get to me. We were trying to keep an important client happy, and everyone (including my direct manager and even the President of the company) had a passionate opinion about what I should do. Unfortunately, the client had totally different ideas and I was walking that thin line of carrying the burden of keeping everyone happy. The pressure even affected my life at home. (My wife would say it wasn’t that bad, but I can see the difference when I don’t have much time for her)
I realize that some of you have much more serious problems. Some of you might have lost your job or you lost your dream home due to foreclosure…some of you might have been informed that you have some serious illness, possibly even a life threatening one. A dear relative of ours is living through everyone’s worst nightmare – the untimely death of one of their children in their 20’s. How can one ever get past such a deep tragedy? Is it even possible? A better question is – does God really know what’s going on down here? Does He see the pain you’re in, the impossible boss, the rebellious spouse or child, the empty bank account, or worse?
These situations are taking you by surprise, but not God. He tells us that He saw every day of our lives before the foundation of the world – that every day of your life has been recorded in His book. (God says this right after He tells you that He has more good thoughts about you than there are grains of sand on all the seas of the world) He has a plan for you that goes way beyond your life on this planet – He has great plans for you throughout all eternity! Since everyone will have different assignments after life on earth, each of us has to be prepared differently. God has a wonderful future designed for you! So you don’t want to be fighting against Him.
Our disappointments, losses and pressures, if not checked, can consume us and make our lives a living hell. The question is…can we find happiness even when experiencing serious problems? The answer is yes. One of the keys to happiness is making a conscious decision and effort to take our focus off our problems and focus of all the good things in our lives…being thankful for those.
Some of you might argue that there is nothing to be thankful for. On the surface that might seem true…but you’d be surprised. I admit that this is not always easy but try we must nevertheless.
Personally, when I struggle with problems, I bring God into the situation, eventually. As a stubborn Austrian, of course, I usually try to handle the problem first by myself… you know, my way! But without Him, the whole situation inevitably gets worse. Yes, I usually attempt a fix the hard way but then after several setbacks, I let Him take over. The earlier in the challenge I surrender the issue to Him, the less pain I experience. Why is that so hard to remember? I don’t know why I need to re-learn the lesson over and over again.
Frankly, giving Him our issues is the first thing we should do. Did you know that God actually loves to hear from us about our problems? He wants to be involved. He is an amazing God that heals, provides, protects, restores and so much more. Below are some Bible verses…
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalms 18:2 (NKJV)
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Psalms 46:1-2 (NKJV)
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me
up again from the depths of the earth. Psalms 71:20 (NKJV)
As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. Psalms 103:13 (NKJV)
He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. Psalms 147:3 (NKJV)
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV)
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Matt 5:4 (NKJV)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matt 5:10-12 (NKJV)
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matt 10:29-31 (NKJV)
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV)
We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 2 Corinthians 4:8 (NKJV)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NKJV)
So let’s take some time and think about all the things that are good in your life…your health…your husband or wife…your kids… your job…the fact you live in America…that you have roof over your head…that you can see…hear…walk…talk…and that Jesus died for you. If you’re having trouble with this, just take some extra time to think about it…it will be worth it. It’s amazing how many things most of us can come up with.
It is important to write these things down as you come up with these items. Then read them out laud several times per day. It’s really amazing what just that little exercise will do help us experience happiness. Here is what the Bible says about being thankful...
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7 (NKJV)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Psalms 118:1 (NKJV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess 5:16-18 (NKJV)
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Cor 9:15 (NKJV)
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Col 3:17 (NKJV)
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, Phil 1:3-4 (NKJV)
Keys to happiness exercise:
• Ask God for help (ask Jesus into your life if you have not done so already)
• Write down 10 -20 things you are thankful for
• Read them every day for a week…maybe even twice per day
• Every time a thought about your problem seem to creep into your mind, remind yourself of one or more things that you are thankful for
• Ask others to pray for you
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