We are surrounded by horrible stories.
This very morning, my son could not find a single channel that was covering any sports highlight from yesterday. Instead, everyone was talking exclusively about the tragic death of Kobe. While most of the material was simply cycling over and over, the media is slowly shifting to the next negative narrative. There’s an angry question emerging, “Who’s to blame for this senseless tragedy?!”. Meanwhile, Facebook is ablaze with viral stories of outrage. Also, your friends have all told you about their sad story and the horrible tragedy of their neighbor’s cousin. Then, there are your own family struggles and health scares. There is bad news everywhere!
The human spirit seems to continually pursue negative focus. We find it way more interesting to sulk in the bad, rather than marinate in the flavors of God’s blessings, which are also all around us.
Here’s an example of what we do:
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus talks about overriding the negative by staying positive, and I suppose it’s no surprise that people take His illustration and do to it the very thing He’s trying to speak against. Perhaps Jesus knew it would happen, and thus chose to use the metaphor of rain to make the point!
Jesus said, “[God] sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
We read that, and Christians often quote that, as evidence that bad things will happen to good people… and bad people… bad things will happen to everyone! However, Jesus lived in an agricultural society. Rain was a GOOD thing. Rain produced crops. Rain was a blessing. Jesus’ actual point was that there are blessings all around us and they fall on everybody. Thus, we take a positive promise and turn it into something negative.
Certainly we cannot ignore the pain of others. We must be compassionate. At the same time, Jesus calls us to have an approach to life that expects and looks for God’s blessings. They are everywhere. I’d bet that if you take inventory you’ll find way more blessings in your life than tragedy… WAY MORE!
Blessings don’t make the news cycle. Gifts from God rarely go viral. You, however, can choose to obsess over the great things God is doing for everyone you know.
You don’t have to take inventory of bad news. Everyone else will handle that for you. The media will flood your phone with it. Your pillow will whisper it to you at 3:00 am. Your friends will make sure you hear about the tragedies all around.
Here are a few ways you can choose to marinate in the goodness all around:
- Keep a gratitude journal, or write down great things that are happening or have happened. Even if it’s on a napkin, when you write it down it sinks in. Take a few minutes everyday to read the EVER-GROWING list of good news!
- Take a five minute break every couple of hours (Set an alarm on your phone.) to think only about what’s going on that is positive in your world. It could be as simple as, “I’m above the American poverty line (or even right at it) and, therefore, I’m in the top 3% of everyone who is living or has ever lived! During that five minute window, you will only focus on good things! This is so foreign to us that you will probably have to practice the art of positive-only-focus!
- Give yourself a 15-30 minute window everyday to focus on troubling news and pray about the struggles your friends are enduring. The rest of the day, tell yourself, “I’ll think about that during my prayer time.” You cannot and should not avoid praying for people and dealing with the pain of others, but keep it contained to a set amount of time. I call it my “Pastoral Time”. Call it what you want, but if you know you have a certain time of day to deal with the bad news, sometimes you can tell your brain to save it for then. I wish I could constantly be owning the sadness so many of my friends and church family are overwhelmed with. I can’t live like that. I can, however, make sure I take time everyday to pray for people, text or call people, and think about ways to help them. I can’t let it consume my life or I will become a cynical shell of a person. I have to create limits. I am a human with limits for sorrow.
If you can find ways to soak in the blessings all around you, to live in constant awareness of God’s Presence and goodness, not only will you live with more joy, but you’ll also be in better shape to help people who come to you with their problems. Rather than just being another fellow struggler, drowning in a flood of sadness, you’ll be more equipped to pull people out of despair and onto the firm ground of God’s ever-present provision.