If you're single, gratitude can make all the difference in the world. It doesn't always change the immediate situation, but if you start to change how you perceive things, it won't be long before you grasp the truth that you do have the power to turn your life around.
Without this attitude of appreciation, you feel caught in a draining, neverending struggle. You see everything in shades of black and gray. Troubles seem to pile up. Your life becomes something to endure, rather than enjoy.
I know. I'm telling you this from personal experience. This is another one of those blockheaded mistakes I made when I was younger that I want you to learn from. Avoid this corrosive mindset and you'll have a much happier life.
I'll be blunt. Gratitude is not for wimps. Cultivating this way of thinking takes work. You have to be tough to be grateful, especially when things are going against you.
It takes a strong-willed person to stare problems in the face and say, "It's not over. Better times are ahead. I'm going to find something to be grateful for, and I'm going to hang onto it no matter what."
Many years ago, when I was taking cobalt radiation treatments for cancer, I was emaciated, weak, and vomiting every day. It was one of the worst times of my life. But you know what I managed to be grateful for? God's love. It got me out of bed in the morning. It gave me the courage to go in for another treatment, even though I knew what the side effects would be afterward.
It was the toughest testing I've ever been through. Something told me if I could get through this, the rest of life would be downhill.
Look, I don't know what you're going through right now. It may be much worse than what I had to deal with and it may be a lifelong disability or problem with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.
And here's another solid gold nugget of truth
You have the power to interpret your situation.
That's right. You can run around like Chicken Little, thinking, "Aye, caramba! This is the worst thing ever! I'll never recover from this. Woe is me!"
Well, okay. You're probably not saying 'woe is me,' but you get the picture. What's threatening you may be so powerful you feel helpless against it.
Know what? God is never helpless, and he's on your side.
I became an ingrate because I became obsessed with one area of my life: I didn't have a wife. I wanted to be married more than anything in the world and I wasn't.
I focused so intently on my lack that I ignored all my sufficiency. Instead of thanking God for all the good things he had given me, I complained about what I didn't have, and it colored the rest of my life. Gray.
I'm ashamed to say this went on for years. I made myself miserable. This isn't an easy thing to admit, but I'm telling you this so you can recognize it in your own life. If you're not doing it, wonderful, but if you are, for God's sake, please stop it. Stop and see how your lack of gratitude is dragging you down.
For those of us who live in the United States, we have the foolish idea that life can be perfect. We think, "If I can just get this or that, everything will be great, then I'll be happy."
But that's not how life really works, because we live in a broken, sin-stained world. Things can never be perfect here, and we're naive if we think they can.
That truth doesn't have to be depressing. On the contrary, once you grasp it, you'll understand you can free yourself from always wanting more by being grateful for what you already have.
Those are major, major things, but if we take a bit of time, we can find many small things that we can be happy for too, from a hobby or activity we love, to at least one good friend, to a job that pays the bills, to the simple freedoms we all take for granted every day.
Thankfulness comes not from comparing ourselves to people who have more, but to people who have less.
That, in turn, should motivate us as Christians to help those people who have less. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We do good not to earn our salvation but because we're grateful to God for this priceless gift he has given us.
It takes real effort to stop whining and start praising God. And, if you're in a group of grumblers, you may be tempted to join that chorus of critics. There's an odd satisfaction in getting sympathy from others. Attention, even the wrong kind, can be enjoyable.
In the long run though, the Christian life demands optimism because of the bright future in store for us in heaven. However, we need not postpone our life, viewing our journey as drudgery to be endured until then.
No, let's resolve to be happier starting right now, by enlisting the virtue of gratitude. Instead of being swayed by TV commercials, Internet pop-up ads, and social media fads, let's go for the giant-size, deep-down joy that comes from an intimate relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
You and I live mainly in our heads, so let's make the atmosphere there a happy place. We do have that choice. When the apostle Paul spoke about joy, he was focusing on the privilege of being chosen by God. We're filled with the same Holy Spirit that lit his fire.
This is not smiley face shallow. This is deep-thinking theology. Jesus is great. To have him is to be blessed. When the world Is falling apart and you've got the Rock to hold onto, you can keep going.
The apostle Paul said, "…Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2b). When you renew your mind by using gratitude, you will be transformed!