Who’s Tough?

I have a double standard. I believe I can survive anything and that I should have a ribbon for making it this far in the obstacle course of my life. Not having a ribbon doesn’t phase me, because I am that tough. Ruff!

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Totally not me. Thanks, Pixabay!

 

But…

At times, I’ve gotten perturbed at God, even less than polite.

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I know, SHOCKING! Pixabay again

 

Not for myself. For those I care about.

Getting everything we want prevents us from becoming who we want to be. I know that. I know God protects us from some trials and carries us through others. I love being stronger, wiser, more determined and more understanding when I step out of a dark tunnel into the light. But that’s me. Watching other people suffer just kills me.

The other night, I visited a friend. He’ll be singing at a coffeehouse in a couple of weeks and asked me to sing harmony. He’s picked out some beautiful worship songs. After one particular song, he told me a story. Several years ago, he had a wife and family. Then came the day when instead of a house full of joy and love, he had child support and court dates and a small apartment for one. That January, his one-bedroom apartment had no heat or lights.

One night, he was bundled up in this place he was forced to call home. In his coat and gloves and boots he began to sing this worship song, the same one we were practicing. He let himself go, his voice breaking the darkness, his spirit a candle, flickering and then growing brighter. Every square inch of space was filled with an awareness of God’s love—permanent and unconditional.

I need to be reminded that spiritual truth works for everybody, not just me. I don’t have to bully God into pampering people. He’s better than that.

The Happiness Project and other scientific studies have uncovered the spiritual law of gratitude. Just as the natural law of gravity is true whether you’re in a basement or jumping out of a plane, the spiritual law of gratitude applies regardless of your position. These studies have shown that happiness is not the result of our circumstances—it’s a way to transcend and even change them. Gratitude is the key. People who make a habit of expressing gratitude are happy people.

You absolutely must watch this video. It’s the best one you’ll see all week. In a happiness test, subjects wrote a letter describing someone who made a positive impact on their lives. Afterwards, their happiness scores increased 2-4%. Other subjects wrote a letter describing that someone, but then picked up the phone and called those special people to thank them. These subjects saw a happiness increase of up to 19%. The person who experienced the highest increase had been the least happiest person at the beginning of the test.

This is what my friend had known, that icy January night: we don’t wait until the situation turns around. We give thanks and voilá! Our hearts lift.

We don’t have to make stuff up or be fake. In this life, we get a lot of really special blessings. None of them are permanent, not even the body we inhabit. Our spirits and our relationship with God last. So let’s compare our relationship with God to marriage, the other relationship we all hope will be long-term. If a spouse focuses only on a disappointment or on something they want the other spouse to do, intimacy dissolves. When at last that partner reaches out, the bruised heart is tender and distrustful. Happy couples whose marriages last a lifetime don’t have some unusual history of perfection. Instead, they decide repeatedly that their relationship is important enough to preserve, above anything that might try to divide them. They hold hands, express their love and find ways to laugh together.

In our relationship with God, worship gives us that intimacy. It takes us past our list of wants and into a place of handholding and companionship. In times when we feel as though our hearts have been ripped out completely, worship causes the raw connections to bud and bloom.  When our thoughts circle nervously around our struggles, worship puts God back into the center of our focus and we feel steady again. And when everything is great? Well, worship should be automatic! Find 10 minutes today, maybe during your commute, to worship. Tell God how awesome He is, sing along with a worship song or just make up your own. Notice the scenery, take stock of how far you’ve come, and just enjoy the embrace of the eternal.

Here are a few worship songs that make my day:

Upbeat: Mandisa Shackles and Dave Barnes Carry Me Through and Phil Wickham This is Amazing Grace

Return to Intimacy: Hillsong Draw Me Close and Kim Hill You are Still Holy

Reflection on Jesus: Hillsong Lead me to the Cross and Charlie Hall Center

 

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