I felt stuck. Stuck in a job situation that left me stressed, anxious, and unhealthy much of the time.
A few years ago, although I was passionate about what I was doing, I still knew I wasn't doing well. I convinced myself that I was okay. That it would be fine. That I would just struggle through the 5-day work week and then feel refreshed again once Friday night rolled around, or maybe that next 3-day weekend or occasional vacation.
But I was doing it all wrong. I was always living for the next weekend or the next best moment while just trying to get through the present. And in the process? I was missing life. Perhaps you are too . . .
We're all holding out for something.
We all have that thing we're holding out for - that weekend, that vacation, that fun adventure to the cabin, that getaway with friends, or that milestone in life that we believe will somehow make us feel better or tell us that life has finally "arrived."
What is it for you? What is it that you're eagerly awaiting while just mindlessly pushing through your weeks until you get there? What is it that you're living for?
Psalm 118:24 says, 'This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.'
It’s a well-known Scripture. If you grew up in church, you no doubt heard it proclaimed from that old-fashioned pulpit or could quote it by heart from your time in kids’ Sunday School. Or even if you didn’t, you’ve more than likely seen it often. It’s inscribed on our coffee mugs; scribbled across the pages of our journals; highlighted, underlined, and circled in our Bibles. It may even be scripted on the wall art proudly hanging over our fireplace (thanks to that 40% off sale last month at the local Hobby Lobby). But how often do we stop to think about what this verse actually means? I mean really think about it?
If we're being honest, most of the time we actually rehearse this Scripture in our minds like this:
- Let's rejoice when it’s the weekend and we can rest and have fun.
- Let's rejoice when we can book our next Disney vacation (or any vacation) and escape reality for a while.
- Let's rejoice when we can get that coveted promotion and make more money.
- Let's rejoice when we can buy our dream home and live quite comfortably.
- Let's rejoice when our finances are all in order and we can splurge or live it up just a bit more.
- Let's rejoice when we can take some PTO and have a breather from the stress of our job.
But the Bible tells us to rejoice today - and every day.
If we're always focused on the next best thing, we completely miss the splashes of beauty that God wants to show us in the present each and every day. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day." That means today, right now, in these circumstances, even if it's a bad day. That means when we’re happy, healthy, comfortable, and at peace. It also means when we’re sad, hurting, stressed, and confused.
God didn’t give us conditions in that verse of when we should rejoice and be glad. He didn’t give exceptions of when it’s okay to complain and loathe our life. No. Instead, he tells us that no matter what the day may bring, it is a day to rejoice.
We must learn to cultivate a daily habit of gratitude.
Living out Psalm 118:24 by choosing to rejoice every day begins by building a habit of daily gratitude.
The truth is that this life may not always be kind or good, but we still have a good, good God - and that is a reason to be grateful!
We cannot be content to just occasionally see the good but we must choose to actively look for it. Instead of waiting for what's next, we must pause, observe, and reflect on the beauty that's already been given. Instead of setting our sights on something bigger and better, we must notice the little things we have that we often take for granted. Instead of always expecting more, we must stand back in awe of what God has already done.
There are many practical ways to incorporate gratitude into our lives.
Learning to cultivate a heart of gratitude is not always easy, but it is 1,000% worth it, and little by little, it can change our lives! We're only one month into 2023. That still leaves 11 more months to make this year a grateful one. Consider these ideas to begin cultivating a habit of gratitude in 2023 and beyond:
1. Commit to recording one good thing every single day.
No matter how difficult life gets, I think we can all find one good thing every day - even if it’s small.
- Recording something good could take the form of a traditional gratitude journal that you keep in a simple notebook or a fancy planner with your colorful pens.
- If writing every day isn’t your thing, use the Notes App or another app on your phone to record just a few simple words of "thanks." There are several apps designed just for this purpose. Just type the word "gratitude" into the App Store and you'll see there's no shortage of them.
- Maybe you don’t even like typing something out. Instead, try recording your voice on your phone. Then, when times get hard, you can go back and listen to yourself praising God and be reminded that he's still good, even through the storms.
Whatever you do, just choose something that fits your style so that you’ll want to stick with it. Don’t stress over what to record or how best to say it. Just thank God for whatever comes to mind in the moment. Put aside perfectionism or the need to follow strict journaling questions and just write what’s on your heart.
2. Put gratitude on your calendar just as you would any other important appointment.
Set aside just 10 minutes a day when you can close your eyes, be still, and reflect on what God has done. Set alarms on your phone to remind you of when it's time to slow down and reflect. We all know that life happens and things come up out of our control. You may also want to have a backup alarm just in case you miss your first "appointment."
3. Tie gratitude to your daily routines.
- Do you work out at the gym every morning? Use it as an opportunity to thank God for your health, for how he has made you, and for your strength and ability to do regular physical activity.
- Do you commute to work every morning? Use it as an opportunity to thank God for your job and for how he provides. Maybe even thank him for that car that gets you to your destination (yes, even if it's not the fanciest ride in town!).
- Do you do laundry for your family each week? Use it as an opportunity to thank God for your loved ones and for the joy of sharing a home with the love and laughter of others.
- Do you listen to music throughout the day? Use it as an opportunity to thank God for your ability to hear and for the arts, entertainment, and other beautiful things he gives you to enjoy.
4. Have someone hold you accountable.
If you're someone who struggles to see the positive side of life, ask a trusted friend to help you. Tell them your goals and that you're trying to make gratitude a part of your daily routine. Ask them to check in occasionally to see how you're doing. Have them send you a daily or weekly text where they invite you to share one good thing from your day. When you are required to pause and think about it, I bet you'll almost always (if not all the time) succeed! If you've had a harder day, have your friend ask you to stop and think about what good things might still be possible even in the midst of the stress or chaos.
5. Spend time outside in God’s creation daily if possible.
Even if you have just 15 short minutes, take a walk, sit on your deck, or step out the front door to feel the fresh air, hear the birds sing, and take it all in. Pausing to see, hear, smell, and touch God's creation helps us to realize that this life is about something far greater than just what we are struggling with in the moment.
How does everything in this world work together and function as we see it? God had and still does have a plan that is so much more than our finite human minds can comprehend. If he could create this world, surely he can take care of each one of us, and that's a reason to rejoice.
6. Ask God to help you see the beauty when you're struggling.
Some days will be harder to see the beauty than others. When you're struggling with your day, take time to pray. Pour out your heart before God. Tell him your struggles. Tell him your fears. Tell him your stress and pain points. In the middle of it all, ask him to still help you to see the beauty and to give you little reminders of his goodness. If you ask, I’m pretty sure he will!
7. Learn to step away when something is no longer right.
We can always find the good in every situation if we choose to look hard enough, but sometimes it's still not worth it to stay. As I shared in my story at the beginning, I felt stuck in a job situation that was causing my life, relationships, and overall well-being to be unhealthy. If a situation is simply not right for us anymore, sometimes we have to say "no" and make the hard choice of stepping away so that we can say "yes" to the new beauty that God wants us to see. It doesn't mean we're a failure. It just means that something we tried and gave our best to is no longer right for us. If you're seeking Jesus, he will show you when it's time to step away. And when you do, then you can thank him for directing your steps!
Will you take the challenge?
I know you might be wondering by now if Psalm 118:24 means that we have to be happy all of the time. The answer to that is a definitive "no." We all know that we live in a broken world with broken people and broken systems. Hardships are all around us. War, disease, financial struggles, broken families and relationships, job layoffs, and toxic environments. We know it's not easy or possible to be happy all of the time. But what I'm talking about here is not happiness. I'm talking about a deeper joy.
There is a joy that goes deeper than any of our circumstances. This joy has a name and his name is Jesus.
It’s a joy that comes from knowing that no matter what happens to us in this life, we have a secure identity, a meaningful purpose, a promised future, and an eternal security because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and his never-ending love. If you've never met this Jesus, click HERE! I'd love to introduce you to him.
As you push ahead into 2023 and beyond, I challenge you to choose gratitude every day and watch how it changes your life. Remember, true joy is not found in getting more but in choosing to be grateful for what's already been given. And if you change your gratitude, you just might change your attitude about life!