Most of us have heard that being grateful is good for our mood and for our health. Despite this knowledge, most of us struggle to stay grateful through all of life’s situations. Can you relate to that?
The secret to gratitude is realizing that it is really nothing more than an attitude. An attitude is “a settled way of thinking or feeling” and it is something that is very much changeable. In order for our attitude to change though, we must first be willing to change our perception because our perception of a situation will determine our attitude about it. Let me give you an example.
Most of us would agree that we do not like to suffer. We don’t like to be sick, we don’t like to be in pain, we don’t like being mistreated, we don’t like feeling like we failed, we don’t like to be disappointed and we don’t like any other forms of suffering. If my perception of suffering is that it is always wrong or bad, I will carry an attitude of resentment, anger, bitterness, grief or guilt during times of suffering. And lets be honest, when are we not going through some small (or large) amount of suffering?
So here’s the perception change that I believe will change your attitude- know that God can use your suffering for a good purpose.
Whether you believe it or not, or whether you’ve heard it or not, God is on your side. God cares about you. In psalm 139 it says that not only did He weave you together in your mothers womb, but it also says that His thoughts towards you outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind. In Ephesians 2:10 it says that God wrote out a plan for your life before you were put here. Jeremiah 29:11 says that his plans for you are good and He doesn’t mean evil.
But you might ask, “Chris, if God’s plans are always good, than why do people suffer?”
Here’s something important to know- not all suffering is ultimately “bad”.
Case and point, the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus knew His fate was to be whipped and crucified. He knew that the only path to our redemption and to our forgiveness was through a horrible and painful death on a cross. This was arguably the most intense form of suffering one could endure at that time.
The night before it happened, He prayed to God the Father and begged Him to let our redemption come another way. He finished this prayer by essentially saying “if I must suffer and die for them I will.” As I’m sure you’ve heard, He did end up suffering through that horrible torturous death for us. Because He did this, we can be forgiven for our sin.
I’ve seen my own suffering lead to good things too. Here’s one example.
At age 15 I was diagnosed with leukemia. I was immediately taken out of school and placed in to a 26 month chemotherapy protocol. I was cut off from almost everyone and I spent everyday gripped in fear over whether I would die.
I suffered through intense chemo treatments and I thought it would never end. It was more mentally and physically taxing than I could adequately convey in words. It even made me hate God for several years.
Despite all this suffering that I went through, MUCH good came out of it.
This period of my life was what triggered my fitness centered lifestyle (out of dire need) and it laid the groundwork for me to be doing the work that I’m doing now.
Now, everyday, I get to go to work and truly enjoy every bit of it. I work with great people, I get to help them in a very meaningful way, I get to solve problems, be creative and I get to learn new things every day through experience. I’ve truly lived out the American dream to do something I love every day of my life. Every time I think of this, I realize that it is a blessing that only came through the suffering.
Had I not had the cancer and been forced into this way of life, there’s no way I would be doing this type of work. There’s no way I could inspire people through my story and there’s no way I could have many of the blessings I have now.
This is one of many examples I could give. The principle is the same through all of them- something great can come out of the suffering. This is why I say to trust God. God can make something great out of every situation, even the worst of them. All it requires is faith and patience.
Our faith allows our attitude to be positive, hopeful and joyful in the midst of any situation. Our patience allows that attitude to endure through the process that it takes to see the good come out of it.
Why do we need patience? Because it might take years to see the blessing of the suffering. The example I gave took years and I can point to others that took even longer. Despite this, know that God is the same in every part of the journey. He loves you the same whether you are suffering or whether you are succeeding. He can and will help you in any situation you find yourself in, even if it’s just to give you more faith and patience in the midst of it.
The bible says in James chapter 1 that we should consider it worthy of celebration when we encounter various difficult situations. It says that through these situations, we would be taken on a journey that would lead to something good. I am so thankful to be able to stand here and say that I’ve seen that promise come to pass time and time again.
So, if you find yourself today struggling to keep an attitude of gratitude or struggling to trust God or struggling to believe that something good will come out of your difficulty, know that God is on your side, ready to help comfort you and give you strength that is sufficient for any situation you might face. Seek Him and He will give you the faith and the patience you need to see it through. As you do, eventually, you will see the blessing of it all.