I pulled out a pen and tore off a fresh sheet of paper. I numbered the page and titled my list “The Last Two Weeks” and then I furiously began writing. My husband leaned over in the middle of church and whispered, “What are you doing?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and I whispered back, “I’m writing down all the major things that have gone wrong in the last two weeks.” I was on number 14 and the list varied from shipping disasters at Mercy House to serious medical issues.”
“Honey…” he said, but before he could comment on my unhealthy activity, I pointed to the column opposite of the very long list of problems that said, “Gratitude.” For every problem, I was writing down a praise.
A single tear fell down my cheek as I whispered, “I’m trying to find the good in the bad.” He patted my back and I kept writing.
He knew just how difficult the past few weeks had been and he knew how desperately I needed gratitude to change my perspective.
Earlier in the month, I caved and paid to get the entire list of my strengths based on the Strengths Finder test I took this time last year. I mentioned in a podcast that I liked this assessment tool because it takes a positive approach to how God made us. I felt good about myself after I took it, but I was curious about what my last few strengths might be because the last handful in a list of 34 are probably a realistic look at your weaknesses.
I mean you don’t exactly have #33 in abundance right?
Any guesses to what my 33rd strength is on a list of 34? Positivity.
I laughed when I read it because it makes perfect sense. I have always called myself a realist, but in truth, no matter what angle I look at the half full glass, it always looks empty. But the more I thought about my #33 , the more sobering this truth became: When I don’t practice gratitude- I don’t have joy.
Brene Brown says powerfully that, “We’re a nation hungry for more joy: because we are starving from a lack of gratitude.”
At one point at work in the past two weeks, within a span of minutes, I laughed hysterically and then bawled my eyes out at the ridiculous and random amount of opposition we have faced just simply trying to do good in the world. I know the enemy wouldn’t be trying so hard if we weren’t making progress, but in the battle, I have felt so discouraged and defeated.
On Friday, as I drove into Houston with an employee to visit refugees after massive flooding in our city, we tried to solve all the new problems that had surfaced just that morning and for every one we solved, our solution created three more. It was almost comical! We got out of the car and walked around to the trunk and I looked her square in the eyes and said, “The enemy might think all this will make me quit, but he’s just making me want to fight harder!”
But by the time Sunday rolled around and even more problems arose, I felt battered from the battle and like I was barely hanging on. I was thinking about the problems instead of the praise and so I sat down in the middle of worship and started writing. Because isn’t that how life is? It’s tempting to keep track of everything that’s going wrong instead of focusing on the rainbows in the rain. There’s always a list we can make. It just depends on which column we’re writing in.
Something incredible happened as I countered every challenge with something I was thankful for in the difficulty, I felt joy.