“We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13
There have been times in my life – regularly – when I start complaining to myself and God (and maybe sometimes my husband) about this and that. What happens is really interesting: the more I complain, the worse it gets, like a ripple effect until I’m really unhappy and miserable with myself because what I perceive is an injustice or something that isn’t right. Many of these situations are things about which I can’t do anything, so I begin to settle into an unhappy funk.
Paul’s letters are a reminder to me that we have a choice about whether or not we will be grouchy and crabby or happy and grateful. Nearly every letter we have from Paul begins and ends with his thankfulness for the church to which he is writing. Interestingly, some of those churches haven’t been very nice to him, yet he praises their ministry and faithfulness even though he also teaches them about what it means to walk the Christian walk.
I heard a story about someone who had been diagnosed with cancer, and she began a praise journal. No matter how bad her situation, how much pain she endured, how difficult the chemo treatments became, she would take her journal out and find something to give thanks to God for in that day. It’s a good practice to have! One time, I decided that I needed to do the same thing, and I believe that has helped me form a more positive attitude and given me the insight to try to see things from the other person’s perspective rather than from my own. When I’m upset about something, I stop and give thanks to God for the “two-by-four” across the forehead and take a hard look at the whole picture. When I can’t see it, often my husband will help me step back and look at the larger picture.
On my last day off, I was grocery shopping, and I was standing in front of the produce, trying to decide if I wanted baby spinach or “adult” spinach. I must have stood there too long because this man came up, pushed my cart out of the way, and stepped in front of me to get what he wanted. I apologized, and he never said a word – totally ignored me. That got me started with the internal fuming! Then a woman was standing on the opposite side of an aisle looking at something which forced me to walk in front of her so I said, “Excuse me” as I went past her, and she didn’t even acknowledge me. Fumes increased! As I drove out of the parking lot, a car from another state didn’t stop at the stop sign and shot right in front of me to get into the line for the stop light. The car must have been filled with smoke by then!
As I was driving home, I realized that I was tense, angry, upset, and wanted to give those people a piece of my mind, and that wasn’t doing me any good since they weren’t around, and I couldn’t do anything about their behavior – only my own. I started repeating “peace,” “serenity,” “relax” to myself for the rest of the ride home, and by the time I opened the garage door, my muscles had relaxed, I had given my frustrations over to God, and I was able to let go of their rudeness. I can only control myself. So, I’m thankful for lessons I learn from so many people, especially the woman who kept the praise diary and the people who remind me every day that I can only control my own behavior, make my own choices about how I will respond to other people, and invite me to look at things from their point of view (even though I may only be guessing as to their situation).
Our actions can share the word of God or our own word. As Christians, we are asked to share the Word – Jesus by following in his example, living lives that reflect the presence of God with us, and give thanks in all things. How are we doing? We each can ask ourselves that question, and we are the only ones who can answer – well, us – and God.