What my Mama said to me the night I overheard her and my Daddy talking about not being able to pay all their bills surprised me. As a small boy, I knew we were poor, but I didn’t know we were that poor.
Mama was a Sunday School teacher in our little church. She always taught us kids to “Be thankful no matter what.” But that night I asked Mama, “How can you be thankful when we don’t have enough money to pay our bills?”
I’ve never forgot what she said. “Bill, no matter what, you won’t have trouble thanking God if you focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. You’re right, son. Our family doesn’t have lots of money. But just think about all we do have—our family, food on our table, jobs, our health, our church, our freedom, our promise of heaven, and I could list a hundred more reasons to be thankful. I’ll bet you can, too.”
So where is our focus? On how blessed we are or how deprived we feel? It reminds me of how Satan tempted Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden was filled with luscious, amazing fruits, but they focused on the one fruit they couldn’t have rather than being thankful for the overwhelming number of good things God had given them. Their pessimistic, ungrateful focus darkened their minds and hearts, and robbed them of a bright and beautiful relationship with God and each other.
When you can’t pay the bills, can’t get something you want, or you get something terrible you don’t want, try Mama’s way. It may sound crazy at first, but it works. Look around and make a mental list of all you have that’s good and all you don’t have that’s bad then say, “Thank you Jesus.”
Refusing to participate in mental and emotional darkness opens us to the light of God’s presence that shines brightest in us when we are, as Mama said, “Thankful, no matter what.”