If Only

When was the last time you felt genuinely thankful for something? I’m not talking about the excitement we feel when we obtain a new possession; I’m talking about true gratitude that comes from deep within. Sometimes we focus so much on what we want, that we forget to focus on what we already have. There’s a lot of truth to the phrase, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”––but we shouldn’t have to lose something before we appreciate it!

As females, we tend to do a lot of “if only’s”:
“If only I had that car…”
“If only my parents would give me more money…”
“If only that boy noticed me…”
“If only I didn’t have so much homework…”
“If only I had more clothes…”
“If only my room was better…”
“If only my hair was straight…”
“If only my hair was curly…”

If only, then what? If only we had those things, we’d be happy and our lives would be perfect, right? Wrong! If only we had what we listed, we’d only move on to another list of “if only’s”!

In Philippians 4:11–13, Paul wrote, “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Considering that statement was made by a guy who was put into prison for being a Christian, that’s pretty powerful!

Do we really want to go through life wanting more and never feeling satisfied, or do we want to learn to be content and thankful, like Paul, even in difficult circumstances?

Basic Thankfulness List

Clothing: Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a closet full of clothes and several pairs of shoes to choose from every day. Look around your school. The girl who dresses in weird clothes and wears the same outfits all the time may not have a choice. Her parents may not be able to afford to buy her clothes whenever she needs them, so she’s stuck with hand-me-downs and whatever they can find at the local thrift store, not just to accessorize in cool ways, but because they don’t have enough money to drive to the mall and buy new things. The next time we’re tempted to complain about having nothing to wear, let’s thank God we’re blessed enough to have more than what we need, and remember that “…life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:23).

Food: We are so blessed with an abundance of food! The next time we’re tempted to complain about a meal that is set before us, let’s instead think about teens or children on American streets who would love to have that meal. Say a prayer of thanks that you are blessed with full meals every day, hug the person who cooked that meal to show your appreciation, and rejoice that one day “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16–17).

Shelter: Our homes are something else we tend to take for granted. We have so many homeless people in our own communities, people who live in shelters, sharing rooms with complete strangers. There are others who live on the streets, covering their heads with cardboard boxes to stay partially sheltered from wind, rain, and snow. Instead of complaining that we’re not allowed to paint our bedroom or buy the new furniture we want, let’s be thankful that we have a home to live in and furniture to sit on, as Paul was in 1 Timothy 6:8: “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”

Physical Self: We often take our looks for granted, and it’s not uncommon for us to complain about our imperfections. Imagine not being able to see those imperfections, or anything else. Ginny Owens is blind, yet she has chosen to not let her blindness stop her from becoming a Christian singer/song writer and telling others about her gratitude to God. The next time we want to complain that our hair isn’t just right, or our skin isn’t the exact shade we want it to be, let’s choose instead to be thankful that we have sight to see ourselves, as well as everything around us, and let’s remember that, according to Proverbs 31:10, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”

If Only…

If only we would learn to be content with what we have, we’d be more thankful, more loving, and more compassionate, and we could more effectively share God’s blessings with the world.

We’re told in Colossians 3:17 that “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Next month we’ll discuss how to give to those in need, but for now let’s embrace today and thank God for all of our blessings.

– Davonne Parks

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