Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
I was driving home from visiting a friend and suddenly the thought popped into my head, “I’m not a pessimist?”
I’ve considered myself a pessimist for most of my life. I’ve mentioned this before. Numerous times, I’m kind of ashamed to say. It wasn’t like I hated life or didn’t enjoy it. I definitely loved life for the most part; there were definitely things I enjoyed. But when it came to conflict or chances of things going badly, I expected the worst. I’d think, “Here we go again. I’m about to be let down.” And usually, I would. When situations arose where there was a mix of good and bad, I could hardly focus on the good. I’d say, “Sure, that’s nice. I’m not saying it’s bad, but look how much better this part could’ve gone. It’s just typical.”
A friend of mine who I love dearly played a huge part in my life perspective. They were the optimist to my pessimist. When I saw the bad, they’d bring my focus to the good. Always smiling, always reminding me to be happy. I learned a lot from them.
When that friend left my life, though, I had to learn to apply what I’d been reminded of and see life that way myself.
But how, how? When there’s so much pain? When there’s betrayal, and death, and broken hearts, and such seemingly meaningless affliction – when there’s just all-around brokenness?
This practice of thanksgiving is transforming. It’s a life transfusion. Thanks in all circumstances – this is what turned the self-proclaimed pessimist to an optimist. “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.” Not in my circumstances – but in me. It’s not just a practice, it’s a command, it’s the one thing about the will of God for our lives that we can for sure know. His will isn’t a secret. It’s this! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, emphasis added.)
I realized it when, in a day where I drove through busy traffic, sat in a traffic jam, got lost in the halls of a large hospital, was given frowns in return for my smiles of greeting, saw a beautiful friend suffering, and just went through another day with the burdens I’ve been given to bear, I still was happy. I was more than happy, I was overjoyed. I felt light, at peace. The moment was beautiful. Which moment? Every last one. I went into the next moment and said, This is wonderful. The next moment? Thank you. You are so good.
“I’m not a pessimist?” No! I realized. I’m an optimist! I’m in Christ, and Christ is in me, and I am living!
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret…” (Philippians 4:12) Yes, yes!
I have no idea what my next moment will hold. I know the pain is not over. But I know what I have to look forward to.
And that is this: God is here, and God will be there. So there will be goodness and so much to be thankful for, whether the moment has pain or happiness. And at the end of my life, I shall be welcomed into beauty and glory beyond measure.
I’m breaking from the usual template for my posts on thankfulness because I want to share this with you. I want you to know what I have been taught this week.
Without Christ in every moment, life is nothing. Life is too much for us to be happy in. Because it was never meant to be lived alone. Friend, are you living in Christ?
Yes, there is pain. I’m not going to even try to deny that. I’ve experienced my share of pain; you have yours. But this is what I believe: God is a jealous God. Storms are personalized for you to bring you to Him. Whatever you have been brought to is meant to bring you closer to Him, because He loves you. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows your deepest need, however much you may fight it, is your need for Him and His love alone, before anything else. It is a love that is deeply satisfying and priceless. His love is meant to be put above all else. God, in His passionate, reckless love for you, will take everything away to make you realize that. Unfair? Cruel? In our human eyes, yes. In the heavenly, perfect, clear eyes of Christ, no, because you will not have joy until Christ is your first and only true love. Friend, believe His word, this love is worth more and transcends our understanding. It is the only way you will be truly happy. And God knows that – He wants you to be truly happy!
Your earth will fall apart. Friends will betray you. Your body will decay. Your reputation will fade fast. What is “cool” and what seems to bring freedom will crash hard. The Bible is full of passages that simply say everything will pass away. And what’s left? Christ, His love, His perfection – unchanged.
This is why you must live moment by moment. This type of living keeps you dependent on Christ and deepens your faith in Him. If you do not trust God with every breath, there will be emptiness. You’re investing in your own strength, in your human friends, in your gifts that are only given by the Giver, in your blessings that are only there by the Blesser, and all that will fail. Invest in God. Give thanks for everything, even what seems small. Give thanks in pain, because the pain is a grace. Give thanks for the people who God has placed in your life, because they are vessels God is using to grow you. Give thanks.
Then, and only then, is each moment full – no, overflowing – with grace. And it always was. Your eyes have just been opened.