“You know, despite everything that’s happened, I still really love my life.”
These words came from a woman with whom I had just spent several hours discussing some intense situations in her life, situations that trigger thoughts like, “How did the world get so messed up?” and responses like “I don’t know what to do but pray for you.”
I knew far too well that she struggled with deep emotional pain, but she knew to Whom she could go to find healing and rest. And somewhere, in the midst of all the chaos, she still loved her life.
I also love my life.
People who see my situation from the outside perspective probably think it’s because everything is just dandy in my relationships and situation. I choose not to fix that misperception, because I see no merit in airing dirty laundry just so I can prove to people that I have a relatable amount of drama in my life. So I smile and tell people the good stuff. The bad stuff? You better believe it’s there.
But I still love my life.
I didn't always.
There was a time when all I saw was the struggle and the pain and the disappointment. But, like the friend I mentioned above, I had Someone to go to. And that Someone changed my perspective forever. As I talked with Him about the situations that overwhelmed me and begged for Him to change them, He did bring about change, but not in my life—in me.
He gave me the gift of gratitude. People talk about having “new eyes.” It was just like that. It wasn’t a dramatic flash-of-lightning change. It was like the opening of a flower, or the ripening of fruit. I simply came to a point when I realized that I had changed, and that my heart sang with gratitude.
True gratitude is rare.
Looking around me, I saw others who had not sought after nor been given this gift. And they were miserable! When bad things happened to them, they saw it as a confirmation that they were worthless and that their lives were meaningless. When good things happened to them, they either acted as if it were an overdue right or as if it were the quiet before the next storm. They were always struggling, conflicted, and unhappy.
I wasn’t. Sure, I might throw a pity party when something difficult happened, but I really, truly saw the upside to it too. I saw how God was refining my heart to be more gracious and patient, how I could use the situation to benefit others, how my Father mercifully caused the worst case scenario not to happen, how very blessed I was.
I knew exactly what my friend meant when she said that she had an awesome life. We share the same vision. We have a God who loves us, no matter what, who sews a blessing into every curse, and who paints the sky and the land with reasons to be grateful.
Let me show you what I see.
I am exhausted as I drive home late from a meeting, and pray that God will keep me safe on the road. As I park in the driveway, and step out of my car, the cool night wind chills my skin and I look up. Thousands and thousands of stars glitter in the deep black of the sky, like shards of ice. It takes my breath away. I am gazing at the jewels of the universe, celestial bodies so bright that their light reaches millions of light-years to me. There are entire worlds out there, of which I can only see a tiny fraction, and God has spread them all out in a vast tapestry for me to see. I feel like a woman who has been given a priceless jewel. “Oh, Father, you know how much I love the stars! Look how beautiful! What do they look like to you? Will I get to see them through Your eyes someday?”
I am disappointed with a particular relationship in my life. It seems that negativity clouds my interaction with that person, and it’s increasingly difficult to see anything good about them. As I mull over it, God nudges my heart to look beyond my selective memories. I recall times when that person did me a special kindness, or when that person helped me to see some truth that I’d been missing (even if the manner of delivery wasn’t perfect), or when that person exhibited a strength that I seldom saw in others. In fact, I realize I love this person and truly desire to see them blessed. I’m grateful that they are in my life and for all that they have taught me. Even though I am not blind to their continuing faults, I am no longer blind to their strengths either, and I have the freedom to consider how I can appropriately share with them how much I genuinely appreciate them.
I am frustrated by a continually delayed desire. Why does God grant to others what He blatantly denies to me? Am I doing something wrong? Are my expectations unrealistic? As I tell God how hurt I am by what appears to be some divine grudge against me, situations confront my attitude and questions barrage me. Could I have enjoyed this particular opportunity if God had answered my desire? No, for the possibility of one precluded the possibility of the other. Would the fulfillment of the desire actually make Situation X more bearable? Probably not. Was I really so miserable? Now I’m laughing at my own absurdity. My desire remains, but now I see how fulfilled I feel in so many other ways, ways to which I was blind just a moment ago. I see the balance clearly, how some things are taken away when other things are given, and some things are given when other things are taken away.
I am grateful for gratitude. It is the peace to stop striving to make things happen the way I want them to happen, and the trust to admit that my Father not only does what is best for me, but also has a blood investment in my ultimate happiness.
What about you?
When the storm comes, can you see the beauty of the lightning and the silver-wet leaves?
When illness or pain arrives, can you see the comfort of a soft bed and time with the Lord?
When things break, can you give thanks for all the time that they functioned properly?
When people wound, can you see how desperately they need a Savior, and how kind God was to them, to put you in the situation, to be Christ to that person, even if imperfectly?
When emotional pain overwhelms, can you be thankful for the promise that all tears will be one day be wiped away?
Pray for gratitude. Ask the Lord to give you new eyes that can see His blessings hidden amidst the curse. He will not withhold this from you. Whatever happens, remember this: He loves you, intimately and deeply. That’s always enough to be grateful for.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.