Friday, January 20, 2012

Count Your Blessings, Not Your Troubles

I confess that I lifted today's title from a principles list in Dale Carnegie's classic work, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Mostly because I could hardly say it any better--and because the contrast points up a major struggle in my own life. Counting troubles is so much easier.

Many a parent and teacher can testify that it's the bratty children who get attention, while the quiet, well-behaved ones are taken for granted unless their performance proves exceptionally good. Life's circumstances are little different. When things go smoothly, we take it as no more than our due; when circumstances impede our wants, we can think of nothing else. We're like the Israelites in the wilderness who set up a wail when the water supply ran short and complained that their daily diet was too monotonous, rarely thanking God for His miraculous provision or trusting that He would keep it up.

Trusting God: therein lies the key issue. If we truly believe He loves us and has our best interests at heart, we should have little trouble seeing the many good things in our lives; if we think in terms of "I know what's best for me and I have a right to it," everything that interferes with that ideal is the enemy. To whatever degree you believe that good thoughts attract good things and bad thoughts bad, the biggest roadblocks to our happiness are the ones we build through our own "I want what I want and I absolutely refuse to accept anything else" attitudes. Because very few people come close to getting everything they want.

Even those who do tend to find it considerably less satisfying than generally assumed. Selfishness is a sure path to misery; it's just not what we were made for. We were created, as the old catechism goes, "to glorify God [not ourselves] and to enjoy him [not our own ideas of perfect circumstances] forever."

And when we focus on Him, blessings become far clearer as well.

Count your blessings, not your troubles:
If you look at wants and lacks,
Misery will fall upon you
As a battered vessel cracks.
If you look at God's abundance
And you let Him fill your life,
Joy will come to rule your spirit
And your happiness will thrive.

Count your blessings, not your troubles:
God gives special gifts to each
As His wisdom sees is fitting:
Do not for another's reach.
Joy in what is yours, and use it
In God's grace to serve your Lord,
Do His work, and praise His glory--
You will find your sure reward!

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