Thankfulness is a good thing. I was raised to say please and thank you to show respect and gratitude. But giving thanks goes beyond just the words, it is about my attitude. I know how much better my outlook is when I make note of the things I am thankful for. However, it is not my natural bent. I would fall more in the category of complainer — THAT seems to flow from me with ease. I complain when the weather is too hot, then I complain that the weather is too cold, or that it didn’t last long enough. I complain about the drivers on the road. I complain about how messy the house is. But I wondered, how do I come across to other people?
I decided it would be helpful to get some feedback. So I asked two of my daughters if they saw me as more of a pessimist, optimist or realist — it was important to throw the REALIST in there because that is a good middle-of-the-road option. They said, “Mom, you think you are an optimist, but you are really a pessimist.” Yikes!
I quickly responded with, “Well, you don’t just think I am a realist? You know, I just see things for how they are???”
They tried to let me down easy and said,” You like to tell us to be positive and optimistic, but that’s not what you actually do.”
So there it was. I got the answer to my question, even if I didn’t like hearing it. The truth is, it is always easy to spot someone else’s hypocrisy, but easy to deceive ourselves into believing that what we say and do are one and the same.
I know in my heart of hearts that I am a glass-half-empty kind of girl. To see the glass as half full feels unrealistic to me, maybe even foolish. I see optimism as a way of ignoring the harsh reality that things don’t always turn out the way I want them to. I would rather avoid the process of getting my hopes up and being disappointed. I have come to believe that having low expectations leads to less frustration. These are my justifications for why I choose to have a negative outlook.
That is what it all boils down to — choices. Somewhere along the way, I chose to focus on the negative rather than the positive. The idea of looking at the proverbial silver lining, seems like choosing to see the world with rose-colored glasses, choosing to bury my head in the sand rather than see life for how it really is. Sure there are times of laughter, sweetness, and beauty. But there are also moments of terror, sadness and hatred.
Gratitude doesn’t require ignoring the bad and only looking for the good. Thankfulness means giving thanks whatever the circumstances because giving thanks is an act of faith, acknowledging that life is bigger than my circumstances. Thankfulness is my testimony that God is the Lord over the negative and the positive. He is at work in the lives of pessimists, optimists and realists alike.
It is easy to be thankful when life is going well, but when life throws challenges my way, choosing to be thankful can be difficult. Rejoicing gets thrown by the wayside, and praying can be downright difficult.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God doesn’t tell me to rejoice always (even when life is hard), pray continually (even though I may not have the words), or give thanks in all circumstances (including the rough ones), because it is easy to do. He tells me to do it because it will require Him in my life to accomplish it. I will have to act on faith and believe that He is good even if life is not.
When I give thanks to the Lord for the breath in my lungs, for the people He has placed in my life, for the way He loves me, for the grace He pours out on me, for the lessons He teaches me, for His mercy that is new every morning– something in me changes.
It is no longer about seeing the cup as half full or half empty because instead my cup is overflowing. Thankfulness isn’t about who I am, whether that’s a pessimist, optimist or realist, but about who God is. And the more I focus on who He is, the more it changes me — from the inside out.
As Thanksgiving draws near, I know that I want my life to be about more than giving thanks one day a year, but about giving thanks every day, whatever the circumstances. I want my life to be less focused on the cup of life’s events and more centered on the Provider who is with me through it all.