In a recent sermon I mentioned how a physician shared his recommendation for treating the blurry eyes we all experience as a casualty of our screen dominated society. By focusing on the screens in front of us for an extended period of time (as you may even be doing right now!) our eyes can become not just blurry, but irritated and weakened. He recommended the practice of the 20/20/20 method for combating this irritation: for every 20 minutes one focuses on a screen, take your eyes off the screen and focus on another object at least 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.
Scripture compels us to make a concerted effort to consistently look beyond the present, pressing circumstances of life and see the bigger picture. When we do so we can see why the Apostle Paul wrote in several places (Romans 8, Philippians 4, 1 Thess. 5) that we should give thanks “in all circumstances.” While it is important during the season of Thanksgiving to count our blessings, sometimes when we count our blessings we mistakenly categorize what is a blessing and what is not. We need Scripture to speak into our lives to reveal to us that our tired, blurry spiritual eyes aren’t always able to see clearly. When we pull back and focus on the bigger picture, with Scripture’s help we see how important it is for us to count even our difficulties as blessings, and therefore objects for thanksgiving as well.
Nicholas Batzig has written how the follower of Christ can be thankful and joyful in the midst of all difficulties. He points to Scripture, which teaches us how to think, so we can be thankful. Here are his ten biblically-based principles for thanksgiving we would do well to keep in mind, especially when we are facing adversity.
Batzig states we should be thankful for trying circumstances …
1. Because we deserve eternal judgment and whatever we are experiencing short of that is a mercy.
2. Because we have already been redeemed by Christ, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ and sealed with the Spirit until the possession of the eternal inheritance.
3. Because we know that our God doesn’t make mistakes. There is nothing that falls outside of His sovereign eternal decree.
4. Because all that God is doing in our lives is for His glory and our conformity to the image of His Son.
5. Because we can be confident that God will not waste any of the lessons that He is seeking to teach us in the difficult as well as enjoyable circumstances in which He places us in life.
6. Because know that we will be able to extend to others who experience similar difficult circumstances the same comfort that we receive from the God of all comfort.
7. Because we know that God’s purpose is to make us whole and complete, lacking nothing.
8. Because it is better for us to be in a place of weakness that shows us our need for God than to be in a place of plenty and prosperity and forget about Him.
9. Because we are being pruned to bear more fruit. The Lord is removing the dross and refining the gold.
10. Because they serve as a stage on which the deliverance and provision of God’s grace in Christ may be displayed in our lives.
Our lives are not defined by our circumstances, and neither should our thanksgiving. In order to prevent our spiritual eyes from becoming blurry and weakened from the present circumstances that demand our focus and attention right now, let us remember to consistently pull back and cast our eyes on the best object of focus of all, the cross of Christ (Heb. 12:1-2).
In doing so not only will we see the bigger picture, we will also see that the cross is the most beautiful picture of all.