By the Way With Joel Meeker

I Didn’t Know...

In a world of discontentment, a change in perspective can open our eyes to our blessings. Thankfulness can help us realize how happy we are.

I once had the opportunity to give an audiovisual presentation to a church congregation in the Philippines. Using slides projected on a screen, I gave an overview of some of my work in the French-speaking parts of the world, including how most people in poverty-stricken countries in Africa live.

After the presentation, several people thanked me and remarked that they had thought their lives were hard. They had thought they had the most difficult lives of any in our church family, but they now realized some people’s lives were much more difficult. 

They hadn’t known. They were looking at their lives in a new way, and they felt a new sense of thankfulness. 

Another perspective on blessings

This caused me to reflect on our human proclivity to take blessings for granted and focus instead on things we wish we had.

Traveling in what is optimistically called the “developing world” certainly gives another perspective on many blessings taken for granted in the “developed world.” 

Yet no matter where or how we live, we enjoy blessings we would do well to remember and for which we should be thankful.

“I didn’t know I was happy”

One of the moist poignant experiences I had as a young pastor in eastern France was comforting a family whose 15-year-old daughter had been killed by a drunk driver. I remember sitting in the living room of the old stone farmhouse with the bereaved parents. 

At one point, the father told me simply: “I didn’t know I was happy.” He was considering the blessing his daughter had been to them. Now in anguish, he realized he’d taken his former happiness for granted.

Discontent vs. thankfulness

Our modern world increasingly pushes us not to focus on the good we have, but on things we don’t have and want. Politicians running for office assure us that we deserve more than we have and, if elected, they’ll see that we get it. Companies use slick advertising to tell us “we owe it to ourselves” to have whatever their new, improved product is. We’re manipulated not to be happy with what we have.

King David encouraged himself not to forget God’s blessings: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). In the rest of that psalm, David went on to make a list—to count his blessings, as the saying goes.

In an alarming prophecy about the time just before the return of Christ, the apostle Paul told Timothy that one sign of that end time would be a general attitude of thanklessness (2 Timothy 3:2). This mind-set already seems omnipresent in our modern world. Paul explained elsewhere that a main reason the world has become so full of evil and suffering is that humankind in general has not acknowledged or been thankful for God’s blessings (Romans 1:21).

Thankfulness should be a part of our every prayer. It stabilizes us spiritually to count our blessings—to remember them in detail. If we don’t, we can easily forget how happy we are.

Do you know?

Joel Meeker


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Discern Article Series

Christ Versus Christianity
Walk as He Walked
Christianity in Progress
Wonders of God's Creation