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Friday, May 4, 2007

How to Enjoy Life More

This world is not our home; but while we are passing through, we can make our journey more enjoyable. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 13 years ago, my perspective on life changed. The experience helped me learn how to make the most of the time I do have here on Earth.

Savor the Simplest Things

Have you ever considered the trip to your mailbox as the highlight of your day? While I was recovering from surgery and undergoing chemotherapy, I learned to savor my daily walk to the mailbox. The walk accomplished more than retrieving the mail: it allowed me time to savor my surroundings. I no longer moved ferociously to the mailbox, ignoring everything in my path. I became aware of how the elements of God’s creation filled my senses: the scent of fresh air, the coolness of a breeze. When we take time to appreciate the majesty of God’s creation, we learn to appreciate what God has done for us. This must be how David felt when he wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

See the Good in People

We are not to ignore or condone sin, but too often we engage in unfair criticism of others. Have you noticed that people who habitually criticize others seem miserable? Perhaps that’s because their critical heart has created a skewed view of the world. If we see only what is lacking in another’s character, we often fail to appreciate the kindness others show toward us. Looking for the good in others teaches us to trust and prevents us from exalting ourselves too highly.

Look for the Good in a Bad Situation

Consider how Paul viewed his situation in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18: "We are hard-pressed [. . .] yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." In his darkest days, Paul recognized that all was not lost.

Paul prayed three times for God to remove the thorn from his flesh, but God chose not to do so. Instead of blaming God for his disappointment, Paul chose to see how he benefited from God’s denial: "lest I should be exalted above measure..." The thorn in Paul’s flesh helped him remain humble. Sometimes our requests are denied or our plans thwarted. Instead of wallowing in our disappointment, we need to look for the opportunities and blessings our disappointments bring.

Be Thankful

When we cultivate a heart of gratitude, we are less likely to think about what we don’t have. Christians are instructed to “give thanks always for all things to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). When we pray, we are to replace anxiety with gratitude (Philippians 4:6). Counting our blessings results in a merry heart, and a merry heart “does good like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). This medicine doesn’t require us to use a credit card, cash, or check!

Meditate on These Things

We often feel miserable because we have allowed ourselves to focus on everything that we believe is negative in our lives. Paul offers the solution: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). When we meditate on the good, our journey on Earth becomes a little more enjoyable until we experience the ultimate joy in heaven with our Father.