Following is my second attempt to post this article. God, in His great sense of humor, allowed something in cyberspace to swallow my first article. Given the nature of today’s writing, it was a pretty good test. I’d like to say I passed with flying colors, and kept my mind focused on blessings. However, the reality is I was fuming when I realized my work was ruined. Where would I be without grace?! As I write these words again, I realize how important they are for me to practice, and practice, and practice.
I’d like to share with you the words of a favorite song and a favorite scripture. The song has impacted me my entire life, from my early childhood worshiping with the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock until today. The scripture has become particularly meaningful to me since I began professionally helping people with their problems. If you will allow them, these words have the power to radically change your life – that is, if you are interested in a life full of peace, joy, and contentment:
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you were called to bear? Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.
So, amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”
As you consider the words of that great hymn of inspiration, consider the inspiring words of the greatest evangelist of all time, written from prison while awaiting trial for a death sentence:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
Here is the message I hope you will receive today: If you want to experience a life of peace, joy, and contentment – focus your eyes, heart, and mind on good things (blessings). Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying to ignore your problems so they will just go away. That is foolish and ridiculous, and won’t help. However, I know the transforming power of dwelling on blessings, rather than on problems. It completely transforms lives, from moods to mental health to relationships. I believe this so much, that I would invite you to put me to the test. Commit to dwelling on blessings (see the above passage from Philippians for anything that qualifies) for one month, and see if your life isn’t better as a result. Here are some helpful pointers to get you on the right track:
- Pray. Ask God to open your eyes, ears, and mind to more blessings. Ask Him to help you be less focused on problems. You want to make this prayer even more powerful? – Pray it with someone else who will commit to this month along with you.
- Cut down or cut out your viewing of TV and internet news. Much of it is problem focused (which is putting it mildly). Most of it is beyond your ability to influence. I’m convinced we, in today’s Western culture, increase our risk of clinical anxiety and depression by bombarding ourselves with the problems of the world. The problems in our own households, neighborhoods, and communities are more than enough for most of us without introducing everyone else’s nightmares into our living rooms.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal, or praise list. Have a special place where you regularly write down anything you experience from Paul’s list in Philippians 4:8. This discipline will train you to actively take note of blessings, an exercise with which many of us are unfamiliar. It also offers a great resource to pull you up from a time of despair. If you find yourself unable to think of any blessings, read through the ones already recorded by your own hand.
- Develop the habit of asking others about the blessings in their lives. You may just change their whole day, as you encourage them to see the good in their lives, and give them a willing ear to hear about those blessings. Try it. Instead of the typical, “How’s it going?” “How are you doing?” or some other version of this flat greeting we usually say without enthusiasm, say something like, “Has anything good happened to you today?” or “What was the best part of your day so far?” I recognize this may feel as awkward as walking into an elevator full of people and not turning to face the door, but have courage, and give it a shot. (By the way – that elevator thing is a great way to start conversations and is just plain fun!)
If you are willing to commit to this new discipline of dwelling on blessings for a month, please email me or leave a comment below, so I can pray for you. I look forward to hearing about your new level of peace, joy, and contentment – somewhere around Thanksgiving!
With Hope – Roger