Sunsets are a celestial phenomenon that few can deny the beauty of. The sun sets everyday, though not all sunsets are equal in majesty. In Ohio during the winter, you rarely even see the sun behind the perpetually gray monster that is our winter sky–sunsets are rarely spectacular.
My family and I traveled to Florida for three weeks several years ago (before we moved to Florida), and there, the sunsets were awe-inspiring every day. The sinking ball of fire would stain the sky and clouds varying shades of orange and red as sun dropped behind the ocean. Incredible.
I found myself thinking after one such sunset, “Where has all of this been? It’s the same sun that shines on Ohio.” It’s incredible how a sunset in one location can be magnificent, and yet, non-existent in another. The only variable that determines how glorious a sunset appears is your perspective.
How many other things are there that would take on a whole new glory if we only changed our perspective? How about mundane everyday tasks? Or stressful and painful situations? Is there nothing we can do? Are we at the mercy of our circumstances? Or can we find a new perspective and see things in a positive light despite our circumstances?
I’m not saying ignore our negative circumstances or pretend they don’t exist. I never pretended the winter sunsets in Ohio were to-die-for. I’m saying we can intentionally find a different perspective, a real one that exists—like the sunsets on Captiva Island, Florida.
Behind the clouds, the sun is always shining. We might not be able to really see it, but the sun is always there. Likewise, no matter what is going on in your life, no matter what terrible things happen, there is always a light, and there is always hope.
As James 1 2:4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” On top of that, Romans 8:28 says, “God works all things together for good; to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” No matter what happens, it will all work out.
Trials are good for us, and we should be joyful despite our difficulties. This doesn’t mean “be happy all the time.” Instead, it means that despite our difficulties, we should have a pervasive sense of overall and ultimate well-being. That’s what joy is. Not only are trials good for us, but whatever negatives there are (or what negatives we think there are) they will end up being resolved and used for good.
You can't "make" yourself feel happy, but you CAN be thankful, which has the side effect of JOY! And when you are joyful, everything goes better, from your relationships to your home life to your work life!
Take on a perspective that views the world with an attitude of thankfulness. No matter what our circumstances are, there is always something to be thankful for.
“Really? There is always something to be thankful for?” the skeptics may be thinking.
Well, let me put it this way. Even when Paul was imprisoned or being tortured, he was still rejoicing and giving thanks! In Acts, the apostles rejoiced after getting flogged for Christ because had been “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
Is this real life? Was Paul really rejoicing? Were the apostles really thrilled to have been disgraced? Or were they just trying to act in such a way so as to appear more spiritual? Or maybe they were faking because they knew they should be rejoicing, even when they didn’t feel it. I mean, come on. There is no way anyone could rejoice under such circumstances! More likely they were like, “OUCH! That really hurts! Being a Christian is so hard! My life stinks!”
No, I think Paul and the apostles actually, really, truly were rejoicing! Their suffering seemed like nothing because of their identity in Christ. On the contrary, their suffering seemed like a reward, a sign that they were truly disciples. They knew, and had a literal and practical faith in the reality that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
After teaching at a synagogue in Capernaum, many of Jesus’ disciples rejected Him, saying, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Even though they had seen the truth and the miracles of Jesus, many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him. It seemed too hard to them.
While they were leaving Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God,’” – (John 6:68-69).
Jesus is the only one who holds the key to eternal life. There is no one else. There is no other teaching. His way seems hard and costly, but every other method is much harder and more costly, even if it may seem easy for a time.
Even if it seems we have nothing to be happy about, or nothing to be thankful for, we can still rejoice because of this knowledge. We can still rejoice because of the reality of Christ, His sacrifice, and His way of salvation. It is through being grateful and practicing thankfulness that we encounter the reality that it actually IS possible to rejoice always, no matter our circumstances.
Often, some of the greatest offenders concerning ingratitude are children. Have you noticed? You cook them a wonderful and nutritious dinner, and they cry and throw a fit because they don’t like the taste of the food. Or, you take them to a park and they scream and throw themselves to the ground when it’s time to leave. To them, their life is miserable. Their circumstances are horrible!
“I have to eat broccoli? I have to LEAVE this wonderful playground? OH NO! There is NOTHING to be happy about! Woe is me!”
Children aren’t born thankful. They have to be taught. If you want some help teaching thankfulness to your children, you should definitely check out “’Be Ye Thankful’ in Cursive and Manuscript”, 26 poems, quotes, and verses on thankfulness for children to copy. They can learn spelling, penmanship, scripture, and thankfulness all at once! Sadly, there is no guarantee they will also learn to like broccoli, but perhaps they will learn to at least be thankful for their food.
Silly ungrateful children, right? But how are we adults much better?
“Oh of course we are better! I have REAL woes in my life. I don’t have enough money to pay the bills! I’m chronically ill! My friends have stabbed me in the back!”
From an eternal perspective, we aren’t really acting much better than a child throwing a fit over having to eat vegetables. Circumstances may have changed a little, but reality is still the same. Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves and embracing the lie that we have nothing to be happy about, we need to strive to see the work of Christ in our lives, and practice being thankful, even if that means being thankful for our trials. Through this relentless thankfulness, we will find joy, even when there is seemingly nothing to be happy about.
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