Far More Joy and Thankfulness

This article title jumped off the page at me: “How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to be Anxious and Depressed”. Immediately this Bible verse came to mind:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16a, NIV)

I had always thought this verse said when my mouth does not complain, others see God shining out of me. But God wants to change more than my speech:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

Joyfulness, prayer, and thankfulness involve our hearts, not just our actions. And notice God wants them to be constant. Why is this His will for us? Hearts that are joyful, thankful, and connected to God are living far more life. They are transformed by the Holy Spirit and change our thoughts and actions. Not only does that allow us to be a better image of Christ to those around us, it also — according to the premise of that article — protects our brain wiring from serious consequences.

Why do we complain instead of being joyful and thankful? If I am honest, I want to be in control. I want smooth sailing — as I define smooth. When that doesn’t happen, I view the situation as troubling and am tempted to complain. But smooth sailing is an unreasonable expectation. Jesus clearly stated:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b, NIV)

As long as we walk this earth we should expect trouble, not be surprised by it! Far more life trusts God’s ultimate control and follows Him through the troubles and good circumstances. The Bible makes it clear God has a bigger plan for us and challenges us to have this perspective:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2, NIV)

The verses that follow tell how trials mature our character until we “lack nothing”. Far more life understands trouble is a God-approved spiritual growth plan. My pastor says, “I love trials!” because he understands their purpose. We, too, can walk through troubles with joy when we believe God has a purpose for them.

Jesus faced a more difficult trial than we will ever encounter: the cross. How did He overcome temptation to resist God’s plan?

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

Jesus remembered the purpose for His suffering. He looked to the future rather than His current circumstances. And He did it with a focus on joy. The Bible does not record this, but I think Jesus was grateful for the opportunity to reconcile us to God. And that perspective allowed him to do the hardest thing ever without complaints even entering His mind. We, too, can do hard things without complaining when we remember that God is using them to mature us so we lack nothing.

God never commands us to be thankful FOR everything, simply to be thankful IN everything. He doesn’t expect us to be thankful for divorce or cancer, for example. But He does want us to remain thankful as we navigate those challenges, whether we are thankful for support from others, hope for a better future, lessons we learn along the way, or anything good we know about Him or receive from Him. We also know that our character and understanding of God can grow most during our most difficult experiences; we choose whether to grow better or bitter through our troubles. Like me, you may have life experiences that you wouldn’t want to repeat but are thankful for the closeness to God that developed through them.

I was recently challenged to not complain for 3 days. And to go beyond swallowing my complaints to replacing those thoughts with gratitude. I gave my family permission to lovingly point out my complaining, which one of my teens eagerly embraced. I was surprised by the lightness in my heart as I chose to embrace a new perspective. “I am so tired,” led to thankfulness for a comfortable bed and hope for better sleep that night. “There are so many dirty dishes,” was replaced with thankfulness for my family and ample food. When chronic pain flared I was able to be thankful for the things I could do — even if I had to move slowly and carefully. During those 3 days I realized complaining makes my mind feel gray and overcast but gratefulness makes it sunny and bright. I have committed to choosing gratitude so I can continue to enjoy far more life. (And my family continues to point out my complaints!)

Will you take that 3-day challenge grow in far more life? It will be a battle! You will need to examine your thoughts and determine whether they come from a grateful or complaining heart. When you aren’t sure, ask if they fit this criteria:

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

These are the thoughts that help us constantly be joyful, thankful, and prayerful. They remind us that troubles lead to growth. They protect us from spiritual anxiety and spiritual depression. They are the far more life we crave.

Sisters,
Are you more likely to argue and complain or be joyful and thankful?
How do you respond to trouble and not getting what you want? What helps you respond with joy?
What promise can you look forward to that brings you hope and joy?
Will you take the 3-day challenge to practice thankfulness rather than complaining?
Enjoy far more joyful and thankful life this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

Future Focus

We face numerous problems in life. Many situations cause pain and suffering. Difficulties pound us like the surf pounds the shore; sometimes there is barely time to recover from one wave of trouble before the next one hits. We are tempted to focus on surviving today — it feels like all we can do. But these truths give us perspective and far more life:

But I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You give me wise advice to guide me. And when I die, you will take me away into the glory of heaven. (Psalm 73:23-24, NIRV)

Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord. (Psalm 23:6, CEV)

We don’t have to wait until heaven to be with God; He is already with His children! Eternal life doesn’t start when we get to heaven. It starts as soon as we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We face the challenges of this life with God’s Spirit living inside us. He showers us with kindness and love every day — including our hardest days. His presence gives us far more life in every situation we face. If we are willing to ask, He will guide us through every difficulty; recognizing His response deepens our understanding and love for Him. And one wonderful day we will leave this earth and move into His house forever!

Choosing to be future-focused allows us to rise above our circumstances and embrace far more life. We suffer because our world is filled with sin, illness, heartbreak, and injustice. It is easy to think we will always face those challenges. But God wants us to see the big picture: our relationship with Him will continue for eternity, and after a short time on earth we will live with Him in His perfect home forever. A future focus enables us to view our present, temporary difficulties from His perspective.

These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, TLB)

What joys in heaven can we look forward to?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)

Can you imagine living without death, mourning, crying, or any kind of pain? We have to endure them for a few years on this earth but not in heaven. Focusing on our future brings joy because our pain will end.

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27, NIV)

In heaven, there will be no sin. We will never have to say we are sorry or ask forgiveness. We will be free from evil thoughts, words, and actions. And no one will ever sin against us or hurt us. Focusing on our future brings joy because heaven will be safe, pure, and holy.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4, NIV)

The curse that separated us from God will be lifted. God and Jesus will be among us in all their glory. We will look Them in the eye without shame or fear; They will know us fully and we will know Them. We will live with Them forever as daughters of the King! Focusing on our future brings joy as we anticipate being reunited with our true Father.

And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5b, NIV)

We will be secure under God’s loving leadership forever. Perfect love and justice will guide all of God’s decisions. Focusing on our future brings joy because the perfect King will lead us forever.

You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. (I Peter 1:6, VOICE)

Our future in heaven is so wonderful, so satisfying, so glorious that it far outweighs the suffering and hurt of this life. Jesus has already paid the price to rescue us from this broken earth. And one day He will return and take us home to heaven. Until then, focusing on our future allows us to praise God for all He has done and will do. We are not alone in this life as we wait for deliverance. God’s Spirit already lives inside of us, giving us all we need to overcome the challenges each day presents. While we focus on the future amidst our struggles, we can praise Him for meeting our needs in the past and present. The best is yet to come, but thankfully we can embrace far more life with Him today.

Sisters,
When facing struggles, is your focus on surviving or far more life?

If you have accepted Christ, how does it help you to know your eternal relationship with God has already started?
What aspect of heaven is most exciting and appealing to you?

Thank God for specific needs He has already met in your life.
This week, memorize a future-focused truth from His Word you want to remember and offer as praise when difficulties arises.
-Shari 

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso