Come Out of Discouragement
November always seems to be the month that ministers choose to teach about thankfulness. Guess what? That's what I'm writing about!
Having thankfulness in our hearts during this time of year may or may not be challenging to you, but it's certainly on the minds of many. For me, the key is establishing a thankful heart to last throughout the entire year, especially when you're experiencing challenges and difficulties. Those rough times can show up in our finances, relationships, our job, and the list goes on. I've noticed over the years that the more thankful I am, the more I see God moving on my behalf! After all, thankfulness is faith in action.
Last night I was privileged to be the guest speaker on a conference call with Barbara Wentroble. And the topic was thankfulness that breaks discouragement. I shared my testimony of how I was in deep depression many years ago from a protracted period of time where some people I considered to be friends turned into betrayers, liars, and gossipers. I fully expected God to vindicate me. When He didn't, I went into depression for 3 years. That is the behavior of an orphan spirit. After realizing that blaming others and feeling sorry for myself will not fix one ounce of my troubles, I knew that I was the only person who had a chance at turning my life around. So I decided to begin listing all the things I was thankful to God for. And I needed to hear myself say it, or otherwise it wouldn't have made a difference. The depression lifted. Instead of receiving vindication, I received His comfort!
Col. 3:15-16 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." I don't see how someone can be thankful without first securing the peace of Christ within. The scripture tells us to allow it to rule or govern us. Often we are just satisfied with it visiting us during tough times. There's something to be said for a self-expression of thankfulness so that we actually believe God has our best interest at heart.
There are two reasons why thankfulness eludes us. One is having a lack of peace. Having insufficient peace usually invites worry to take over. Worry comes from self-reliance - the tendency to effect an outcome that we consider to be the best. But when that desired outcome looks like it's fading away, we worry. And peace seems far away. The other reason is having unfair expectations of others, mostly of God. When we expect others to perform, behave, or otherwise fulfill our own wants and desires, they will often fail us. Those expectations will often disallow people to be who they are or are supposed to be.
The primary Person we typically hold responsible for those expectations is our Heavenly Father. And when He doesn't perform the way we think He should, we feel that He has failed us. That's what happened to me. I believe many people have found themselves in similar situations maybe without fully realizing it. In so many words we may be saying within ourselves, "If I were God, this is what I'd do." But His ways are much higher than ours. He fully understands the consequences of all His choices - we do not.
It's quite possible that we begin aiming our displeasure at others because the Father has disappointed us. But if we will have that revealing introspection and admit that we're disappointed with Him and then lay it on the altar, we will begin to view others in a totally different light. We will actually let them live out their lives as they were meant to live them.
If you are a person who tends to be a controller, becoming thankful as a way of life will be more of a challenge to you. Trying to control situations and people means that you could be ruled by fear. It's a fear of an undesirable outcome - we're tempted to control that situation to mitigate the consequences.
No matter what the issue might be, here's what I recommend in every situation. Be specific in your rehearsing why you're thankful to God. To say you're thankful because He's a good God isn't accomplishing anything. Yeah, He's good but maybe not to you lately, or so you're tempted to say. Turn it into a specific reason why you're thankful. Write them down and rehearse them. But also make a new list every week or so. That way your thankfulness won't get stale and rote. Say them aloud so you will actually believe what you're thinking and saying. So what if you don't feel like doing this. Feelings always follow thinking patterns - never the reverse. Change how you think and your feelings will change too.
Notice the conversation of those you hang out with. If they're negative much of the time, maybe you need to change that. If you're married to that kind of person, don't leave! Change the subject and come back with an opposite spirit. You can make a difference around you, but first you'll need to see that there is a change in you. You'll be surprised at how contagious your thankfulness can become! Let this become a way of life for you - every month of the year!
The Key to Turn-Arounds
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help."
There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?"
The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way. I wrote: 'Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.'"
Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so fortunate that they were not blind.
Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective? Change how you view your world and your world will change.