Human beings have a very bad habit of not really paying attention to what is going on around us at any given moment. We tend to get caught up in focusing on one of two things—the future, or the past. All too often our thought processes are an endless, (and futile), cycle of “I’ll be happy when . . . .” or “I was happy when . . . .”. The result? We are rarely happy right now.
It is a habit we can break, however. We can teach ourselves to adjust our thinking, to adopt an attitude of watchfulness or mindfulness, to learn to pay attention to what is happening to us in the moment, and to be content with it. In doing so, we learn a different way of dealing with stress—God’s way.
When Moses was being sent back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of captivity, he asked God who he should say had sent him. God did not tell him to say that “I WAS” sent him, or that “I WILL BE” ordered him forward. Rather, He told him to say that “I AM is who has me to you”. The past is done. The future is a mystery. The present—this very present moment—is where God dwells, and where He wants us to focus our thoughts.
When we do just that, we can receive the joy that the present has for us. We can learn to enjoy it, to be content in it, and to trust God in it. We can learn to listen to God, and to receive from Him. We can be blessed.
You may have heard of the Serenity Prayer. Simply put, it is a prayer to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It is a worthwhile prayer, especially if we couple it with gratitude and thankfulness. If we start each day by thinking of our blessings and focusing on at least three things we are thankful for, we can face the day more easily with courage and joy.
Creating a habit of thankfulness, of gratitude, and of mindfulness, can allow us to be joyful even in the midst of trials. Even when we suffer, we can still create a habit of laughter and happiness, and not a habit of worry. We can chose to think of others, to bless others, to finish well.
We can be surprised by joy.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1-5
(Much of the above has been blatantly plagiarised from Pastor Owen Scott when he taught at Kedleston Gospel Camp.)