Have you ever had to change your phone back to its default settings? Usually this happens when you’ve used and filled your phone to the point that it begins to malfunction; a reset to default settings often fixes whatever hiccups or problems it may have picked up. Remove all the extra noise and clutter of your customizations, and you restore the phone to a state of greater digital purity.
What if we took time to reset the focus of our hearts—a way to return to a default setting of renewed thinking and greater gratitude?
The Slide into Self-Pity
Left to itself, even a redeemed heart tends to drift towards self-pity and complaining. When it comes to giving thanks, it is easy to rehearse the good things—health, family, provisions. Yet too often we fail to express gratitude because our minds are taken up with the people and situations that trouble us.
To change our default setting to gratitude, we need to begin by thanking God for the things that bother us, not just the ones that we enjoy. Tough situations are often God’s gifts to reveal and change some unsanctified part of our hearts.
Sinking or Swimming?
One summer I was particularly unhappy with God because He prevented me from participating in the Christian camp where I longed to work. Instead, He gave me the opportunity to teach preschoolers how to swim. Day after day, under the scorching Phoenix sun, I was trying to get screaming toddlers to enjoy blowing bubbles and putting their faces in cold water.
Torn between their fear of the water and their desire for independence and control, they would push away, thrash around, or clamp onto me—even pinching me with their little toes. After a lesson or two, they had relaxed a bit and were delighted to let me bounce them around while I made motorboat noises or pretended to be a human washing machine. Eventually they learned that swimming lessons were great fun, that the water would hold them up, and that I would not let them drown.
Week after week, God gave me new students who screamed and cried and pinched. Finally I realized that God was trying to show me what I looked like to Him. I had my heart set on a specific ministry that was not open to me. I could continue my adult version of the toddler tantrum, or I could relax and trust Him to teach me how to stay afloat and actually enjoy the ministry He had given me.
The Bigger Plan
Once I understood that, I was able to identify with the children and thank God for them. They were showing me what I looked like as well as giving me insight into God Himself. I, a relative stranger, wanted to teach these kids the skills they needed to survive, and I wanted them to enjoy themselves too. Would God my Father want any less for me? So I surrendered my anger and went back to a default setting of thankfulness.
During the time I was working in aquatics, I renewed all my certifications as a Red Cross instructor for swimming, lifeguarding, CPR, and first aid. Later, those credentials gained me a place of ministry for the entire next decade at the very camp where I had wanted to work that summer.
God’s ways are above ours. We may never understand His methods, but we can always trust His motives. To reset and refresh our hearts, we have to clear out the clutter of busyness, worry, and self-pity. It’s time to go back and fix our minds on God’s truth and rest in a state of gratitude.
Several Bible studies published by JourneyForth are about topics Esther mentions in this post. Check out No Matter What You Can Rejoice, A Life Surrendered, and Refresh Our Hearts.