Choosing Joy and Gratitude

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I’m tired today. It’s a Wednesday that feels like one hundred days into the week and one hundred days too long. My two year old hasn’t slept well in weeks (meaning I also haven’t slept well in weeks), and being in the last few weeks of my pregnancy means I feel like I’m running a marathon just going through my normal day.

It’s so easy for me to complain, to look at my life and see everything that’s not going my way or that could be better. And somewhere along the way, I’ve learned to equate this complaining with being honest about how life really is. It feels like the right thing to do… right? Be honest and real about what’s going on?

While it might seem better in the moment, speaking out the negative doesn’t help my situation (or yours). It can lead to more issues, more stress and anxiety. My pastor recently told us an analogy he learned from a famous speaker: What happens when you squeeze an orange? You get orange juice, not lemon juice, not apple juice. Just like if you squeeze an orange, only orange juice will come out, the same thing happens to us when we’re feeling “squeezed”; if what’s in me is negativity and ungratefulness, anytime something remotely challenging arises, that’s what will come out. And what that really tells me is I’ve taken my attention away from the goodness of God in my life.

When we choose joy and gratitude, we anchor ourselves in God’s goodness, no matter the circumstances of our lives. Paul tells us that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us. Does our life have to look “good”? Run perfectly? Keep us from ever feeling hard feelings? No. But giving thanks points us back to Jesus and helps us celebrate where he’s loving, caring, and showing up for us in the right here, right now.

It’s not easy for me to do what Paul says, but it sure is good for me, and the more I continue to pursue gratitude and keep my eyes open to God’s goodness, the more likely joy and gratitude will spill out of me, even when I’m feeling “squeezed.”

So it’s Wednesday, and we’re already (gloriously) halfway through the week. There was a breathtaking sunrise on my way to work this morning, and now sunshine and blue skies linger out my classroom window. I have a daughter who is learning and growing in more ways than I can count, and she makes me laugh and smile a hundred times throughout the day. I have another baby girl growing inside me who will be here so soon it’s hard for me to imagine. I have a job I love, a husband and friends that mean the world to be, a car, a home, a fridge full of food, a bed. And most importantly a God who sees me and knows me and loves me, exactly as I am. Goodness, gratitude everywhere. Thankfulness overflows.

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