Remember the expression “Is the glass half full or half empty?” The purpose of this expression is to demonstrate that a certain situation can be seen as both troublesome or as an opportunity based on the individual’s point of view and, I suppose, whether he would be considered an “optimist” or a “pessimist”. I have, over the last 6 1/2 years on the “mission field,” often wondered which one I actually am. Some days I would have a positive outlook on a certain situation and, a short while later, it would seem altogether grim. Why the fluctuation in attitude and mood? Well, an important lesson that I have learned in these last few years is that contentment comes by choice and not by chance! It is a conscious decision not only to see opportunity instead of trouble but also to see opportunity IN the trouble! It is pursuing a positive outlook in every circumstance and willingly embracing those “life lessons” which are difficult to learn. Contentment and fulfillment is choosing gratitude!
Why is it so important to choose and exercise gratefulness? We all know that the opposite of grateful is ungrateful. One of the synonyms for the word “ungrateful” is grumbling, something that in our household is referred to as whining or complaining. I often teach my children that whining and complaining is not just bad (and ever so testing on a parents patience) but that it is also sinful. We often refer back to the Children of Israel’s bickering and complaining in the wilderness and how the Lord finally had to deal with it through sending fiery serpents in amongst them. (Numbers 21:6) This is serious business! We cannot honor or please our Heavenly Father if we foster disgruntlement and discontentment in our hearts!
Another reason to guard against ungratefulness is that discontentment often breeds resentment and anger. Have you ever had such a bad attitude toward someone or something that you’ve become entirely bitter towards it/them? Let’s think in terms of culture shock. If I am so consumed with my frustrations, stress, and state of feeling overwhelmed in this new environment, I might altogether forget what a privilege it is to serve the Lord in the capacity I do. If I, as a mother of a newborn baby, continuously harp on my lack of sleep, those early days may not be a sweet experience. If I, as a parent of a”terrible two-er” or stubborn teenager , focus only on the demands and challenges of training and disciplining my child, I may forget the awesome privilege that was given me to steward this life for the honor and glory of God! Discontentment breeds bitterness, and bitterness generates frustration and anger. The Bible says that “…the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”(James 1:20). We are told, however, that we ought to give thanks in everything, as this is the will of God for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This subject really hits home when I think in terms of my spouse. Is my husband perfect? Is he perfectly able to provide my every need, want, and desire? Will he always be and do everything I wish? Of course not. SO, can I be grateful for and content with being married to him? The answer is……..are you ready?… YES and again YES!! How? By choosing gratitude! In our early(er) years of marriage, the Lord gave me a determination to love, respect, and be grateful for my husband, regardless of his well…very few, small, teeny-tiny, shortcomings (of course I have many more than him!). Through the last 9 years, my gratefulness for him has grown into an admiration and adoration that I cannot put into words. I choose to make the positives big and I choose to make the negatives small. Kevin is my hero, not just because he is incredibly handsome and looks like Superman (and he does), but because I choose everyday to be deeply grateful for the man I get to spend my life with! And this brings me to my final thought………..finally : )
When we learn to look at life through the glasses of gratitude (remember it’s a choice to wear these or not), our perspective on things will inevitably change. For one, we’ll realize that several blessings went completely unnoticed through the lack of “sight” we had before. Through the lens of gratitude we’ll also notice that things are not nearly the grim and dark shade we think they are. With a heart full of gratitude, we will expect less of others, and serving will be a sweet, natural out-flow from our “thank-full” hearts. To name a few others: sacrificing will be more of a privilege, burdens will be lighter, worry less of a battle, life-lessons more valuable, family and friends more treasured and, last but not least, our Savior will be better praised!!
Determine today to put the discontentment and grumbling away and choose to live a life of gratitude!!