Life may not be as bad as you think

I’ve mentioned that I’m in Kansas City at a copywriting seminar. Today is the last day, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot and gotten to know some good people in the industry. But I learned something else yesterday, something beyond copywriting: I learned I have an awesome job.

Granted, I knew my job was great, but sometimes it takes really talking to other people in similar situations for me to grasp just what a great company I work for. I’m at this seminar with other people in my station who won’t be reimbursed for their parking, their meals, their gasoline. And I’m here being reimbursed for everything. I even have a company car to drive while I’m here.

It’s not that I’m not thankful for my job. I am. Every single day I’m thankful for it. But I’m not sure it had clicked in my head just how fortunate I am. On the bad days, it’s difficult. I’m not going to lie; this job has put me in tears many times. It’s full of frustrations and full of hard choices and big responsibilities, and I think some part of me had begun to take it for granted.

Many days I looked at my job as though it were something to endure, but what about these other people I’ve met at this seminar? They’re having to endure so much more than I ever have. And it makes me wonder if that’s not true all the time–that what I have to endure really isn’t as bad as I think it is.

Today’s verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Everyone knows we’re supposed to be thankful. Everyone knows that gratitude is essential. And most of the time, we do a pretty good job. I’d like to think I am a grateful person. I try to be. But it’s very difficult to be grateful when the ground is falling out from under you or when you’re doing your best to keep your head above water and more keeps pouring in on you.

When you’re a performance-driven person, it’s hard to truly see an ever-growing list of projects you will never complete as job security.

But the verse doesn’t say be thankful when you feel like it. It doesn’t say be thankful when everything is going right (or when everything is going wrong). It doesn’t put a time limit or a specific season when we’re supposed to be thankful. It just says be thankful and to be thankful in all circumstances.

So what does that mean? Face the day with a fake smile? Thank God half-heartedly and trudge on through the piles of work that would sooner bury you than cooperate?

Being thankful is a perspective. It’s a focus issue. If your default mode is gratitude, it makes a huge difference in how you face a day. And I think that’s where we need to be. I know that’s where I need to be.

We get so wrapped up in our own stories that it’s difficult to remember sometimes that other people’s stories might be full of more disappointments than ours. Other people might struggle more with things than we do, but it’s hard to remember that because sometimes all we can do is see our own trouble.

I’m not saying to stick with a job that you hate or with employers who take advantage of you. I’m not saying to stay at a job when you know God is calling you somewhere else. That’s not the case. But if you have a job where your needs are being met, where you are serving a purpose, where you are appreciated, and where you are being productive–be thankful. A lot of people don’t have that. And if you’re as fortunate as I am? Understand that we are in the minority.

I guess my thought this morning is that we need to have a default attitude of gratitude. Isn’t that cheesy? When we’re struggling and we feel persecuted, it’s easy to slip into endurance mode. And endurance is necessary. We need to keep going, to keep on keeping on no matter what is happening. But we also need to be thankful. And we need to keep our ears open. Because you never know how bad other people have it until you start listening and get your eyes off yourself. And once you understand how difficult life is for other people, your problems won’t seem so huge and you might even be able to see God working in your life in a way you hadn’t before.

So endure, yes. But be thankful first. It will make a huge difference in the way you view life and in the way you handle your troubles.

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