A few weeks ago, there was an unpleasant and unfair turn of events in my life that knocked the wind out of me. Feelings of disappointment kicked in. Those feelings eventually turned into anger, and the anger turned into a low-grade anxiety. I couldn’t stop looking in the rearview mirror and reliving what happened.
The most annoying thing was that the day before, I had actually written a post called “God Doesn’t Do Coincidences,” in which I said:
The things that happen to us, good or bad, are subplots in a much bigger story: “That all things” — even our failures and brokenness — “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God is the Author, and in His story, there are no accidental twists, no insignificant details, no wasted moments.
I wanted to believe that for other people — not for me though. But I figured it wasn’t a coincidence that I wrote the post just the day before. So I reluctantly began to reframe the situation around the idea that God is still good, and it sure was going to be interesting to see how He turned my sorry situation around.
Then I began thanking Him for the lessons I was learning in the midst of the challenge. I thanked Him for healing me recently, for His faithfulness over the years, for the way He has already redeemed so many disappointing things in my life. I thanked Him and I’m going to keep thanking Him, because I’m discovering that the more grateful I am for what I do have, the less fixated I am on what I don’t.
In the book, The Upward Spiral, neuroscience researcher Alex Korb examines research that shows how gratitude, in particular, boosts dopamine and serotonin in the way antidepressants do. He concludes that gratitude is one of the most critical things you can do to increase the degree of happiness you experience.
You don’t say.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Paul wrote a letter to a group of people who were living through severe religious persecution. He said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Notice that he does not say, “give thanks for all circumstances” — he says, “give thanks in” them. That’s easier said than done, depending on the circumstances, but if my last couple of weeks are any indicator, with enough persistence, it can pack a harder punch than the most frustrating disappointments.