Circumstance is a word that speaks of that which is happening around you. The word “circumstance” comes from the same root word as “circumference.”
If you were to draw a big circle around you, whatever happens inside that circle would be defined as your circumstances. We like to think we can determine or somehow choose our own circumstances, but sooner or later we realize that much of what happens in our circle is outside of our control.
I don’t know what circumstances you’re dealing with, but here’s what I do know: most of us are inclined to think that the reasons for our problems—our anger, our discontentment, our frustration, irritation, and depression—are our circumstances. And if our circumstances would change, then so would we.
If you are waiting for your circumstances to be just right for you to experience happiness, be prepared for a life of misery. The Apostle Paul suffering through many difficult circumstances yet he wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, New International Version).
What was it that shaped Paul’s attitude to be thankful in all circumstances?
Notice, Paul wrote “in” all circumstances, not “for” all circumstances.
We all know that there are some situations for which it’s not even appropriate to thank God. However, in the midst of those situations, even if you can’t thank God for what is happening, you can thank him for many other things: His presence, for his help, for his ability to turn things around, for his ability to make something good come out of a mess.
I have learned a simple but powerful distinction. Being thankful “in” rather than thankful “for” is an attitude, not an emotion. Emotions come and go. We can’t always control them. They change like the weather. But your attitude belongs to you. You own it. You control it. You get to decide what to do with it.
Mary C. Crowley said, “Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color a situation gloomy and gray, or cheerful. It’s your choice. Your attitude is your greatest weapon, day in and day out.”
There’s a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan keeps seeds ready to be sown in the human heart. He noticed there were more seeds of discouragement than any other and was told that this kind of seed can be made to grow almost anywhere. He asked about it, and Satan reluctantly admitted that there is one place in which he could never get the seed of discouragement to thrive. “Where is that?” the man asked. Satan answered, “In the heart of a grateful person.”
What color of paintbrush will you use today?