Ethan Pierce is a single father in Tennessee who made an appointment with a doctor about his eyes. He was afraid he was going blind. After a series of tests, the doctor had bad news. “There seems to be nothing wrong with your eyes,” he said, “but there’s something putting pressure on your optic nerve. Probably a brain tumor. That would account for your vision problems and your migraines.”
Ethan, who was wholly responsible for two young daughters, was devastated. Blindness was bad enough, but a brain tumor! The doctor referred him to a specialist, but while waiting for his appointment, his headaches worsened and he was forced to wear dark glasses around the clock. His anxiety kept him sleepless at night, and he anguished over who would raise his daughters.
It was a month before he could see specialists at Vanderbilt Medical Center, but the medical team there was thorough with their tests. Afterward, the specialist sat down to give Ethan the news: “I’ve worked with many children and adults who had vision problems caused by brain tumors. I know the symptoms and signs. You do not have a brain tumor. Furthermore you don’t even have any serious eye problems. Your headaches are caused by the wrong eyeglasses and by too much aspirin. You have some minor problems that are treatable, but you do not have a brain tumor.”
Imagine the relief and thanksgiving Ethan felt. The awful anxiety was gone, and his heart was full of gratitude. No blindness. No tumor. It was like having a death sentence commuted and being released from prison. How he praised God!
Now think of this.
Why does it take a close call like that to make us thankful? Why don’t we pause every day to praise God for all the things that are not wrong with us, that are not going wrong in our lives? Have you thanked Him this week that you’ve not been sick, had a wreck, suffered a loss, or contracted a fatal disease? That you haven’t lost your home to fire or been fired from your job? That you haven’t lost your keys or run out of gas? That your child hasn’t been in trouble?
Someone observed that about 90 percent of the things in our lives are right and about 10 percent are wrong (though the percentage might be closer to 98 versus 2). If we focus on the 90 percent, we’ll be thankful. If we focus on the 10 percent, we’ll develop stomach ulcers. Which do you focus on?
So, then, looking on the positive side, have you thanked God recently for indoor plumbing? Electric lights? A refrigerator to keep your food cold, and a stove to heat it up? A grocery store down the street? A place to work? A good church near your home? A nearby school for your children?
Counting our blessings is a full-time occupation, and it’s appropriate every moment, day and night. Have you ever taken time to thank God for . . .
Ten fingers and ten toes?
Giving thanks affirms our faith in God and in His goodness. One reason we live in a culture of ingratitude today is many people have lost their reverence for God, so there’s no one to thank for the blessings of life.
In short, when we keep our eyes on our blessings, it clarifies our thoughts, sheds light on our daily lives, and illumines our hearts. It opens the windows of the soul, drives out doubt, and keeps us out of the dumps. It dispels anxiety and anger. It displaces grumpiness and moodiness. It’s one attitude with no bad side effects. It sees beauty in every leaf, pleasure in every pursuit, and a silver lining in every cloud. It keeps us from taking life for granted, and it drowns out all the static in the culture of ingratitude in which we live.So as you begin a new year, take time to count your blessings. “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, NASB).
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org