Life is hard. Sometimes unbearably so, it seems.
For some time now, I've been waking up early—way too early—and my first thought is, I wonder what will go wrong today. Who’s going to throw me under a bus? Who’s going to send me a nastygram? Who’s going to quit or leave our church while telling me, “God has called us to another church,” and I’m left questioning, Why is God so mean to me?
Okay, I’m being a bit overdramatic. Maybe. But people can say the meanest things, and they have no idea how painful it can be to lead sheep who bite.
On top of that reality, the world is getting worse and weirder all the time. I’m dealing with parents who have a thirteen-year-old kid who is addicted to porn. What the what is going on?!
Then, of course, there’s the “time thing” wherein there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them. (Yes, I still listen to Jim Croce.) And as time goes whizzing by, my body doesn’t seem to like being sixty-two. I crawl out of bed at O-dark-thirty and complain out loud, “How did I get this old, and why do I feel like I’m eighty?”
I could go on and on. Really. Being grumpy is easy for me.
Perhaps you can relate?
So, I have a friend who is a lot like Dory (you know, the happy, but forgetful fish in the movie Finding Dory) who always seems to find the good in everything and everybody.
If you’re grumpy, she can be quite annoying at times. But she said something recently that hit home. Hard. “Being grumpy doesn’t change anything.”
My incredibly holy and mature response was something akin to “Bah, humbug.” And I wanted to punch Miss-happy-life-is-what-you-make-it Dory in the face.
But then it happened. Something deep in my bowels (maybe soul is a better picture) began to stir. And I thought, She’s right; I’ve never changed anything in my life for the better by being grumpy.
So, here are some recent learnings that are helping me to grow:
1. Zoom out.
My tendency to be negative happens because I get too focused on the thing (or person) right in my face, and I miss the bigger picture. However, regardless of whatever hard, bad, or ugly thing is happening, if and when I zoom out, I get a different and far better perspective.
Granted, zooming out doesn’t change the reality of my current situation, and it doesn’t make my problem disappear. However, when I step back and choose to see from a different viewpoint, that always leads me to a better evaluation.
Okay, I received a hate email or a nasty blog comment today (and I did). But I’ve had hundreds of other messages that blessed me beyond words. Why do I fix my attention on the unkind and forget all the incredibly gracious comments from so many others?
2. Have the long view.
One of the benefits of a better perspective is that you also are reminded that whatever problem you’re facing now—it won’t last forever.
Someday, all evil will be removed when we get a new heaven and a new earth.
Someday, all our pain will be eliminated when we get an eternal upgrade for our bodies.
Someday, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and sheep won’t bite shepherds or each other anymore.
I know the phrase “this too shall pass” is a cliché, but it exists for a good reason—it’s true.
3. Be thankful.
Without a doubt, this is the best medicine for my sometimes-sour soul. As Jefferson Bethke once wrote, “Thankfulness is the quickest path to joy.”
Here’s a challenge, one I double-dog-dare you to try on your own: No matter what, choose to be thankful.
Why bother? Because choosing to be thankful is powerful.
You can’t be grumpy and thankful at the same time; it’s not possible.
You can’t criticize someone and truly bless them in the same breath. A bitter spring can’t produce fresh water.
I need to be clear: Thankfulness is not pretending. It’s not faking it until you make it. You’re not a hypocrite. You are merely choosing to find something—anything—to be thankful for in the midst of your angst. And as you do, your problems won’t magically melt away, but your bitter spirit will.
When your spouse is a jerk, choose to thank God for something good in his or her life.
If your family, church, or business is fighting a financial battle, choose to thank God for His promise to provide for all your needs.
When your kid gets busted for using drugs or comes home with an F in biology, choose to thank God for His great love for them no matter how they (or you) perform.
Again, thankfulness isn’t a silver bullet; it’s not a happy sticker you slap on a bad situation. However, being thankful is absolutely the quickest path to joy and the only path to hope.
Repeat after me, “Grumpy ain’t great. Grumpy ain’t great. Grumpy ain’t great.”
Of course, you already know that Dory is right.
So do I.
Now, what will you do?
Choose wisely, my friend; choose joy.
Let joy be a way of life for you.
Make prayer your default answer to all the hardships you face.
And in the midst of everything—no matter what—choose to be thankful,
for this is God’s incredible plan for you in Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Bubna Paraphrase)