Guess what today’s post is about…yup! Praise!
So, I woke up this morning feeling very discouraged. I tried to write three different articles, each on discouragement, overcoming it, and not giving up. Fail. I kept getting so distracted by self-pity that I couldn’t focus on turning the message around from a whine fest (not the fun kind) to inspiring encouragement. I couldn’t focus on anything at all really, except how I wanted to crawl back in bed.
Finally, I decided to sit on the patio and write, which I usually enjoy. Today, however, everything was on my nerves. The sun was in my eyes, I was hot and sweaty, there was a maintenance guy loudly buzzing a chainsaw or some contraption right outside the fence…as I thought about all of the annoying things that were happening at that moment, I decided to go back inside and call writing today’s post a wash.
At the exact moment, the thought, “SIT DOWN” popped into my head, full force. I don’t usually get yelled at by God, and I guess it wasn’t really yelling, per say, but it felt an awful lot like a strong scolding. Which is far from the gentle, encouraging voice I usually hear from God. Well, anyways, I sat back down. I picked up my notebook and pen and grudgingly held it up and prayed/whined, I’m trying but it isn’t happening today. Maybe this whole writing thing is just a pipe dream, maybe I’m not really cut out for this, Maybe I’m just wasting my time and my family’s time, and…
As if interrupting me in mid-conversation, my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts that were clearly not from my negative self today. Things like, I should be grateful that someone is willing to do my landscaping in the blistering hot sun so that I don’t have to. So that I can sit here by my beautiful pool, on my beautiful stone patio, with my beautiful giant pots full of beautiful tropical plants. I can sit with my feet in the water, which is nice and cool (well, slightly cooler than bath water) because of the stately oak tree that shades it from the ferocious sun. And that tree has a big mark on it that faces the patio. It looks like a giant eye, and instead of creeping me out like it probably should, it reminds me that I have Someone always looking out for me and my family, always protecting us.
After being bombarded with these thankful thoughts, I had an “ah” moment. Or maybe more of an “oh” moment. Like a sheepish, drag my toe in the dirt while staring down kind of “oh”.
Here, I had placed my trust in God, committed myself to his calling for me, stated my faith in him to lead me only to flake out the first time I had a day where everything wasn’t perfect.
I’m such a control freak that I can’t stand when things don’t go my way. When things go differently than how I had conjured it up in my head, I start to become afraid. Afraid that I am wrong, afraid of the consequences if I am, in fact, wrong, afraid that I am trusting in something or Someone that doesn’t deserve that trust; really, afraid of everything. That fear leads to doubt and indecision, and doubt and indecision leads to negativity, and negativity leads to a downward spiral in my thought process that is so intense, I become almost paralyzed, committed to avoiding doing anything at all in an effort to avoid a continuation of said downward spiral.
So what’s the answer? (Oh, and FYI, I just deleted an entire paragraph about millennials and how people assume were entitled, but really we just have serious and validated trust issues. You’re welcome! )
If you haven’t guessed it yet…well I’ll keep that end of that sentence to myself. It’s praise! The Bible, for one, is full of commandments and advice on overcoming both fear and negativity with a positive, thankful attitude and praise. Not to mention the zillions of secular studies, research and books on how positive thinking alone can help you overcome all kinds of difficulties in life. Granted, it takes more than just positive thinking. There has to be a Source. We live in a negative, dark, just plain yucky world (yes, I said yucky), and we can only conjure up so much positivity on our own. But trusting in the Source, the one true God, and focusing on praising him, glorifying him and thanking him for everything, from the most minute convenience (say, the invention of sunscreen) to the most impactful event (maybe landing your dream job), it transforms us. We simply cannot spiral into a downward thought process when we are focusing on God’s greatness.
When I was bluntly reminded to think of all the wonderful ways God had provided for me, (I mean, I grew up in the snow belt and I’m complaining about it being too hot by the pool, really?) it helped me to trust him to provide in the big ways as well. Because I can confidently say that he cares about every detail of my life, great and small.
If you’re feeling discouraged today, or a bit afraid, or maybe a teeny bit negative, I challenge you, right now, to make a list. List at least three things that, if you did not have, would make your life obnoxiously difficult. Thank God for them now. Thank him for the tiniest thing, because it could get taken away in a heartbeat. I mean seriously, I could be the one trimming those hedges right now, in 99 degree weather, with not a cloud in the sky. If you can’t think of anything, may I once again remind you of the very long and ridiculous paragraph that I mentioned deleting earlier. Again, you’re welcome :).
When you’re done with that, take a mental step back. Still feeling discouraged? Add three more things to the list. Keep adding things to the list and meditate on them in prayer, until you get that “oh” moment. And you will have the moment. When the “I feel like a jerk” moment passes, I think you will notice that all those negative and fearful thoughts have disappeared. It is impossible to meditate on God’s goodness and blessing in your life while remaining in a state of whiny ungratefulness.
Praise 1, Negativity 0.
And that’s how you win with praise.
Colossians 3:15-17 NIV
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Psalm 5:11-12 NIV
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 28:7 NIV
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Philippians 4:8 NIV
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.