“Why not me?”
It can be hard not to get swept up in feelings of entitlement. Everybody’s grabbing for more and if you don’t get your hand in you lose out. Personally I’ve never felt this as much as when I’m in line at a potluck dinner. There seems to be plenty of food, but if you wait until the end, there is usually a dish that is empty. What was in it? Is it that one thing that people are raving about? I’ve missed out. I should have gotten there sooner, should’ve taken my place in line first. Bunch of hogs, eating up all the good stuff before everyone has a chance to get theirs.
I’m a selfish, comfort-loving gal by nature, and when things don’t go my way, I have an ugly habit of being bitter and resentful toward the person, place or thing closest to my sucky experience.
The good news is that I’m growing out of this habit. As the years pass I’m not as impatient, and more apt to watch than grab. There’s no hurry for more – I’ve had enough. Getting is overrated; let others get theirs.
Instead of wanting what you don’t have, appreciate what you do have. It’s not what you get, it’s what you give. It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.
These statements all strike a familiar, similar chord: appreciate. Some are actual song lyrics.
Appreciation for what we have and what others do for us are plain good manners. We try to teach children very early to say please and thank you, to show appreciation for what they are given. We withhold treats until they say the magic words, and reward them when they are spoken. But we can only teach the words, not the feelings. They may say thank you but under their breath they may be muttering it’s about time.
It’s easy to feel as if we deserve better treatment, especially following a difficult period. We need a break, after all. We want what’s coming to us, and we may feel as if we are owed good things for hard work or hard times.
But life doesn’t always give us what we want. It’s a life-long lesson, learning to appreciate what we have, especially when things are hard. In this world we are never promised good things in return for bad.
Except by God.
God promises us eternal life in a perfect world – he sacrificed his Son to fulfill this promise. He promises peace and love and light and everything we need and want beyond what we imagine. He promises wonderful things that will come after we die, but he also assures us that some things are available even during our lives on earth.
Paul wrote letters of appreciation during periods of imprisonment for doing the very thing he encouraged others to do: preaching the Good News about Jesus. He had every reason to be bitter, but he allowed the love of Jesus to spill into his words to others.
This is extreme appreciation.
Paul found the love of Jesus in his heart, and as a result, he felt peace and love and the strength to encourage others even though he was in some seriously scary situations, in pain, and running for his life. He appreciated all that God gave him, though his life was marked with death and fear. He couldn’t have done this without God’s provision. As a result many others were saved and found the love of God in their own lives. God brought himself to the people in the form of Paul’s example and his words. He continues to do this for all of us.
We don’t know what God has planned for us each day of our lives. Some days we might not get what we think we deserve. But when we focus on the things we don’t have, it’s easy to miss the things we do have. Often it is the love of family and friends and community that is most overlooked. I’ve done it. But I’ve learned that just when I think I’m not getting mine, it’s time to think about what I’ve already got, and my plate has been full for years. God has done this for me.
May we all find the wellspring of Jesus’ love within us, so that we can appreciate what we have, what we are given, and those who have touched our lives in positive ways.
Thank you, Lord, for putting people in our lives who love and encourage us spiritually. Amen.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.