Today’s blog post was inspired by a sermon my uncle gave this past Sunday. Remember, our thoughts shape our lives.
Proverbs 4:23 “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”
After graduating from college, nearly three years ago, I found myself in a pattern that was really unusual for me. I would complain a lot. Nothing in life seemed to go as I would have liked. Ugh, why do my days start so early? Why don’t I get paid enough? There was always something wrong, even in the most ideal of circumstances. I started to complain more and more until my mom spoke to me. Do you realize how much you’ve been complaining? I was unaware. Do you realize how complaining hurt the Israelites? That too, I was unaware of.
Growing up in a Christian home, the story of Moses and the Israelites was one of the first stories I ever learned. Moses, an Israelite man, was chosen by God to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt into a promise land. Great idea, right? Except almost all of the original people who left Egypt never did actually make it to that promise land. On their journey from Egypt, after being given victory over Pharoh, the Israelites began to complain. Though they hated their lives in Egypt they began to say that their life was better before they left. They complained of the food God gave them and never trusted that God would provide enough for each day.
In my own personal life, like the Israelites, the complaining didn’t stop. It didn’t stop after my mom chastised me. But, luckily, despite my incessant complaints at the time, I consider myself a positive person. At my very core I hope and dream big dreams. I realize that the moments I choose gratefulness over criticism fill my life with such incredible joy as I look to everything God has given me, rather than what he has not.
I realize that gratefulness gives me hope and joy, while discontentment leads to sadness and pain in my own life.
We see what we expect to see.
There are some a couple reasons why gratefulness really works, why even research supports the idea that it works. Have you heard of the law of attraction? It sounds like a bunch of hippy love stories until you see it work in your own life. We attract the energy that we send out.
How many times do you see a Prius out on the road? Now that I’ve mentioned this, you’re likely to see them all over. When we focus on something, whether good or bad, we see it more and more.
We can practice contentment in living within God’s provisions for us
I remember reading a book on personal finance and God entitled Free. The ideas were revolutionary to me. In a world that praises sacrificing everything in an effort to make more money, the book offers a countercultural idea. Buy that smaller more expensive house closer to work if that means you have more time with your family. Spend less so that you can work less and use your time differently as as you would like. And the biggest of all takeaways for me was the idea of living within the provision God has given me. For me that meant to stop trying to buy clothes and brands that I couldn’t afford and would leave my budget extremely tight. I could feel myself breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t need to buy that $500 wallet if that $50 one looks just as cute. Granted, you can choose the $500 one if you would like, but I realize that there was incredible freedom in living well within our own means. Keep in mind, for a person making millions of dollars, a $500 purse isn’t that expensive. I, on the other hand, don’t make that kind of money.
So many times we can question the things God has given us. Why were we born into certain families or why are we from a certain country? Why were we inclined to work in a certain field and not another? Our bank accounts and salaries may change, but that doesn’t mean that our joy and contentment in whatever it is God has given us should change as well.
Gratitude changes the way you think and even feel
We constantly build habits in our lives, both good and bad. Whichever habits were are used to become easier to repeat again and again. When we train our brains to think positively and to think gratefully we can in turn change how we feel.
As a Special Education teacher I’ve learned a lot about de-escalating potentially volatile situations. We learn to nip problems in the bud. Cognitive behaviour therapy also follows a similar idea. Our thoughts can lead us to feel unnecessarily anxious or even depressed. In the midst of a spiral of negative thoughts, it’s hard to stop. But instead of allowing thoughts to escalate so fast, we can try to stop negative thinking right when we start to feel it beginning.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is by using the ideas behind The Five Minute Journal. I try to stop and thank God for different things in my life, even things that may seem stupid. I affirm myself and think of what I long to accomplish for the day.
Thank you, whoever you are, for taking the time to read this blog post.
Thank you Lord for giving me fingers to type and a mind to think.
Praise God for another beautiful day.
Have you intentionally tried to practice gratitude in your day to day life?