This Thanksgiving is fast approaching. All around us, friends and family are expressing their gratitude for big and small blessings in their lives. But I wonder if all these joyful displays feel heavy and droll for those whose hearts are breaking.Read More
Last year, I had a bunch of credit from an online shop that sold high end sunglasses. Over the years, I went through my cheap shades as if they were disposable and I had been toying with the idea of buying a quality pair that would last.
With the money from cumulated gift certificates, I ordered a beautiful blue tortoise shell pair of uber chic Fendi glasses. It was one of the few big splurges I have ever made!
From the moment I put them on, I realized that all those years of wearing 5 dollar glasses had conditioned me to see the world in a subpar light. But these beauties were of such quality that I could see clearly and in perfect comfort-no more scratches and squinting. No more pinched skin on the bridge of my nose, or headaches from ill-fitting ear pieces. I didn’t have to view the beautiful sunny days around me in off color compromise because I could view them in the perfect balance of shade and light.
I hadn’t known what I was missing. I really did get what I paid for, in both cases.
It reminds me how much the way we view the world alters how we live our lives. When all we can see before us is an uphill battle, or defeating relationships, or messy rooms, then just about everything loses its luster.
When I was a teacher, I had a colleague who had emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. Ignacio didn’t live a lavish life and he had plenty of trials that he could have focused on, but I never once, in the 7 years we worked side by side, heard him grumble or say a negative word about anything-no matter how small. He was so thankful to live a life of freedom and relative plenty as an American, that he never forgot where he came from and how blessed he was.
He also had a passionate love for Jesus Christ and few people shined brighter than Ignacio. When I think of the word contentment and joy the first image that comes to my mind is a smiling and kind-hearted Cuban man who often showed up at my door with an iced coffee or a sweet roll. I don’t see him as often as I would like to anymore, but I’ll never forget the example he was to me of how much our attitudes and perspectives will either imprison us in misery or free us to live life to the full as God intended.
Ignacio viewed the world through the lens of thankfulness and it made all the difference.
How about you and me?
Negativity and sorrow can be crushing not only to ourselves but to everyone around us. I bet you can think of someone that is a “joy robber”. You know, those people who you come away from feeling kind of “meh” or like you just had the wind taken out of your sails? Instead, we all have a conscious choice to focus on the good, count our blessings, and determine to say things that will build people up. It doesn’t mean we can’t be honest about our struggles, but the believer should always have a confident hope and joy that is contagious, despite hard times or challenges.
As parents, we can “huff and puff” all around the house sighing over this mess or that behavior and making everyone feel our displeasure. We can say that we want to show a Christ-like example to our kids and then grumble our way through each tiny obstacle in everyday living instead of serving our families with joy and gladness as an act of worship to Jesus Christ. It should never be like that for a mom or dad who is pursuing a love relationship with the Lord.
Here’s what the Bible has to say about it:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
My mother-in-law is a perfect example of this. After her husband of 30 years suddenly passed away, she endured several severe strokes that have left her in a wheel chair and in a convalescent home for nearly two decades. I have never heard her complain. She remains in bed most of the time now and yet she continues to talk about her love for Jesus and takes an interest in the wonderful things everyone else is doing outside the small walls of her shared bedroom. Even though she has never had the chance to push her grandkids on the swing or take a family vacation with us, she still shares our excitement and joy over our opportunities to do so as a family. It humbles me every time.
Our joyful and positive outlook on life can make or break the spirits of those around us but one thing is for sure. We waste our own lives when we have a negative mood that permeates our thinking. You and I have this one chance to take hope by the scruff of the neck and be a light that draws others (And our own kids!) towards us like a moth to the flame.
We want to leave a legacy of joy and hope for our children, not discouragement and oppression because of our attitudes and careless words. I wish that it was as easy as donning a pair of designer sunglasses but this kind of legacy involves doing some intentional heart work.
Do whatever it takes to commit to a more joyful outlook. Toss the mediocre lenses of your mind in the trash bin and upgrade them for a pair that gives you a more hopeful and accurate view of the world around you.
YOUR TURN: Would you consider yourself a “joy-robber”? Do all the little demands of everyday life get to you and steal your joy? What kinds of things work for you to keep your perspective balanced and Christ-centered? How do your kids respond when you are a happier mom or dad?
Let me know your thoughts in the COMMENTS and if this post blessed you, please share it with others!
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