It’s so easy to focus on the negative. The news is negative (try to find a positive story out there in the news), conversations are mostly negative (try to have a “positive only” conversation with your friends the next time you sit down to chat, it’s hard), Politics? Again negative (try to find a politician or political group who are focused on the positive things that are happening, someone who speaks with positive overtones only), advertising is negative (try to find an advertisement that tells you that you have enough, instead of always screaming at you because you don’t have enough, you can’t be satisfied without this item). We are a society that is addicted to the negative and hence seldom giving thanks, because you only give thanks for the good stuff, right? If there is nothing good then there isn’t anything worth giving thanks for.
When it comes to our spiritual lives in Christ, in our prayers and petitions, we can get pretty negative too. We are always seeking what we don’t have – like health, peace, companionship, money, enough, care, comfort and the list goes on. Our anxiety heightens and so we pray. Our discomfort increases so we pray. Our fear explodes so we seek God.
God wants us to seek him, but in doing this we are teaching ourselves that the only time we go to God is when something is wrong, when there is a negative to focus on, and slowly our focus turns inward and our hearts become bitter, because nothing is good.
But read what the Bible says: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Get it? Prayer and Petition must be linked to Thanksgiving.
James and Romans speak of a three stage human development. “…but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And of course Hope does not disappoint us.”
The negative that we see in our lives is the same as sufferings.
Hope is just about as positive as you can get.
David goes to town in Psalm 69:1-30 speaking about the calamity that was facing him, but he ends it with thanking God.
I think he had it figured out, that when we focus on the negative we become ungrateful negative bitter people who forget that they can be thankful, and will get upset at people who are positive. He figured out that when we give thanks out of our sufferings we become men and women of great perseverance, character and Hope, a Hope that just doesn’t disappoint us.
Make the shift. Be thankful.