choosing gratitude: forest and trees

Seven Steps to Regain a Heart of Gratitude in the Midst of Our Concerns

The question on my Facebook post is always the same. “What’s on your mind?” Today, my mind is preoccupied with how often we fail to see the big picture because we’re so caught up in the difficulties of the moment. I’m reminded of the cliche, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Truth’s hidden within those overused words. We easily miss the beauty of the forest because we’re so focused on the trees that seem to block our path. We overlook the slight detour that can take us straight to our destination, and the power of gratitude fades from our consciousness.

When our heart of gratitude fails us

I’ve written about the importance of giving thanks, especially a sacrifice of thanksgiving, (Psalm 50:14) repeatedly. Recently, though, my own heart of gratitude failed me. My corneal issues have worn me out. I’m tired of checking my visual acuity every morning, of worrying when my sight isn’t as clear as I’d like. My concern keeps my eyes on the trembling tree before me instead of the beauty of the forest.

I’m also deeply concerned about our culture, the propensity for violence, the widespread acceptance of carrying weapons, and the fear that drives our actions. I’m terrified of a school shooting in our area.

The persecution of Christians, especially people I know and love, is yet another issue that breaks my heart. The number of nations in which open doors for the gospel are slowly closing grieves me.

I’m overwhelmed with so many concerns.

Giving thanks despite our concerns

This morning, I sought the place of thanksgiving in the midst of my concerns. Though temporarily displaced, it’s not lost, after all.

In the big scheme of eye problems, mine is relatively small. So far, my vision loss has been temporary. I can see without glasses, even when one eye is blurry. At no point has my vision been too poor for safe driving. Voice-activated software is widely available and increasingly accurate if the time comes when it is needed. God has always made a way for me to do that to which He’s called me, and He won’t stop now.

Despite the issues in our culture, God is still on His throne. Both the faith community and the secular community are concerned about the issue of safety in our schools. We can work together, and we are.

I’m burdened by the persecution and resistance to the Christian faith I see around the world, but Christianity has always thrived in times of adversity, and it still will. An ever-increasing desire for a vital, power-filled faith-life is present in most of the churches with which I’m familiar. Yes, there are dying churches, but there are many active, growing mission-minded churches.

God is still God.

The trouble in this world did not take God by surprise. Jesus Himself said we would have trouble, and we do. (John 16:33) He also offered encouragement. “I have overcome the world,” Jesus told His followers. He overcame both the trouble we face and all the ills and sin of this great big world. He can, and will, handle whatever comes our way.

How to regain a heart of gratitude

We can choose gratitude if we will. Here’s how:

  • Begin with one area of concern at a time.
  • Look for God at work in the situation.
  • Seek points of hope in the midst of the difficulty.
  • Choose opportunities for growth and for gaining new skills.
  • Speak thanksgiving before you feel it.
  • Focus on the positive, not on the negatives, in the situation.
  • Continue to express gratitude, especially when it’s hard.

If we’re discouraged and losing hope in a situation, now’s a good time to take our eyes off our situation and look to the One from whom our help comes. Turn to Jesus and thank Him for what He has, and will, do. Give thanks. Even if it’s hard.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. 1 Corinthians 4:20 nlt

You might also enjoy:

 An Early Thanksgiving

Trading Grumbling for a Happy Heart

When Snow Doesn’t Fall: Six Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations

The Walk Down Memory Lane That Filled Me With Joy

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