Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.

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I Will Never Give Up On You  – a poem

written : 12/6/18

 

Through all your triumph and glory

When I see the light in your soul

And I see you becoming whole

I will never give up on you

 

Through all the laughter and the pain

Through the joy of being with you

Through all the good times and the bad

I will never give up on you

 

Though at times you will fall and fail

And you want to give up and bail

Because you don’t think you’re enough

I will never give up on you

 

Though sometimes you drive me insane

And there are times of stress and hurt

Where some people treat you like dirt

I will never give up on you

Beautiful Sunshine

 written on 12/27/2018

-Dedicated to I.T

Your presence shined like the sun

With joy and love, your area was run

You healed the depths of my pain

When I was going insane

 

You have taught me so much

About life, love, work and such

Your influence blossomed in me

‘Til your beauty I would see

 

But then you were gone away

Sadness and joy filled your last day

Though there is a hole in my heart

Your impact on me will never part

Glorious Joy

 written:  12/23/2018

I was in so much despair

Thinking I was beyond repair

Joy was not a part of my life

I was suffering from much strife

 

Everything seemed to go wrong

Life seemed to just drag me along

But then God rescued me

And His love I began to see

 

Like a growing tree, my joy grew

I learned contentment that was true

As I was led into the light

My life became a glorious sight

Precious Sunshine

–written 10/26/2018

Tears fall from your weary eyes

As your foes plan your demise

You think you lost it all

But I’ll protect you from the fall

 

For you are precious to me

Your light I will always see

Your presence brightens my life

And it never causes me strife

 

You have given me much love

You’re a gift from up above

You give me reason to be

Because your soul shines in me

My Hope-Givers and How To Give Hope

-written 11/27/2018

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday that traditionally is slated by non-profit organizations to encourage charitable giving.  Indeed, many people all around the world need hope—from the poor and needy, those in prison, those starving for love and affection, those struggling with a mental or physical illness, and many others.  Today, I want to celebrate hope-givers and encourage all of us, me included, to be hope-givers ourselves, and, in so doing, give a bright future to the people in our world.

As you may already know, I have had about a twenty-five year struggle with depression.  However, even in my darkest pit, God always provided people to give me hope that I could come out of the pit, more victorious and alive than ever before. By listing these people, I have the hope that in your own struggles, that you will be encouraged that there are people in your own life that will also give you the hope you need at the right time.  I also want these people to know that they are important and that they have made a difference in my life. Here are some of the following people that gave me hope when I needed it the most and how they provided it for me:

  • My parents and brother: They were there for me during my toughest times, and did their best to support me through it all. They always encouraged me to never give up, even when I wanted to. Because of their persistence and love, I was able to come out the other side of depression a stronger person.
  • My mentor J: She always encouraged me that I was not the stupid, not-good-enough, failure I had imagined myself to be. She always saw the best in me, and encouraged me to never put myself down, especially for things beyond my control.
  • My friend Veronica*: Once when I was having intense suicidal thoughts and was visibly upset, she was able to convince and encourage me to see hope and joy again in my life. Also, because she has so much joy and hope in her own life, while still being real about her struggles, I have been inspired to follow suit.
  • My friend Holly*: Holly has always given me hope that I am not alone in my struggles, and she always has words of validation and encouragement, even when she herself was experiencing very difficult things in her life.  Her unselfishness, along with her uplifting words, helped me to know during the tough times, that there was always hope for me.
  • My friends Anna* and Karen*: Karen and Anna have always been there for me as good online friends, who have encouraged me through the tough times, and shared with me the good. Their honesty about their own struggles in life and how they have persevered through them, have given me hope that I, too, could come out victorious over my depression and other issues in life.
  • My manager Elizabeth*: My current manager always gave me hope that even when I mess up or feel insecure, she has my back, and she believes in my abilities as an associate and as a person.
  • My manager Chris*: Chris was the one that gave me the opportunity to work at my current job in the first place. He also has believed in my abilities as an associate and as a person, and has encouraged me to work diligently and wisely.
  • My friend Laura*: Laura has encouraged me to see me how God sees me. She gave me hope that even in the dark throes of depression, that she was willing to be there for me when I needed her the most. One time, when I was particularly struggling with self-hatred, she had sent me a most precious forward about the beauty she saw in my heart with her caption “This is you.” I will never forget that.
  • My pastor John*: My pastor was instrumental in helping me redeem a work relationship that I thought was past redeeming. God used him to do a work in my heart, and the relationship I had at work was reconciled.

How To Give Hope

Giving hope is not only about giving encouragement, though it sure may be a very important element in it. Giving hope is about looking at someone and seeing the golden nuggets in their soul, like most of my hope-givers have done for me.  Hope-givers see what those who have despaired or lost hope are blind to—the beauty in their soul and the hope in their futures. For example, I have several friends who are unable to work. The world may see them as lazy or useless, but I see them as those who still can give others encouragement and perseverant, as they wake up each day fighting the illnesses that try to defeat them.

Giving hope is about being a shining light into someone’s life, when he or she feels alone or forlorn by others. Sometimes, I have felt that way during certain situations, but my friends Veronica and Holly have always encouraged me by making me feel less alone. All my hope-givers have helped me find the light in my soul and helped it to shine. We, too, can be the shining light into someone else’s life that desperately needs it.  We can do this by being there for them whenever possible, by helping them through their pain, and by speaking words of hope and positivity into their lives.  Saying things like, “I’m sorry you are struggling so much today, but I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are not alone, “can make a whole world of difference in a person’s life.

Giving hope is also about being hope in their lives. For instance, my manager Chris, not knowing me as a person yet, took the chance and gave me the opportunity to work at my current job.  Had he not given me the chance to work where I am now, I don’t know where I would be today. He gave me hope of a new opportunity to shine.  Also, my mentor J, gave me hope by helping me find work and giving me the tools that I needed in order to get out of my rut of depression and hopelessness that I had felt for years. I try to give hope myself by sharing my love for others through my writings and also helping them feel valued and encouraged through thanking them when I see the positive difference they have made in others’ lives, including mine.

When we give hope, we give life to others. Who around you is dying for love and hope today? Maybe be there for them and give them the encouragement that they are still valued and needed, because being a hope-giver for them could save their lives.

*=Names have been changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

Having Christmas In Your Heart

This past week had been very stressful for me—and for many people around me.  Two or three departments at my job were without management, including mine, leaving me to do even more work than usual. Managers, associates, and customers were seemingly extra busy and pressured this past week—especially some of the higher levels of management at my workplace. At church, we just voted in a new pastor, who will officially start a few months from now. Finally, in the midst of all this, my family and I are making our own preparations for Christmas.

You may be also experiencing similar stressors—but, maybe, hopefully not.  Regardless, I was encouraged by God to develop more peace in my life and to incorporate more of the character of what Christmas truly should be about, in my life. As I read in my church bulletin today, Roy L. Smith, had said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart, will never find it under a tree.” So, if we can’t find Christmas under a tree, how can we find the true character of Christmas?  Here is what I learned about finding the true character of Christmas in my heart:

  1. One of the things that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is that I needed to have more peace in my life. – In Matthew 11:28-30, it says that when we rest in Jesus, He gives us peace for our souls (translated in the KJV as “rest,” which is essentially the same thing). Unfortunately during this week, I found myself being anxious about bad things that either never happened at all, or wasn’t as bad as I once thought.  For instance, I was very upset at myself because I accidentally spilled my entire lunch. Not only did it  needed to be cleaned up, but I would have to now waste time and money buying myself a new one so I would be able to sustain myself energy wise to continue to be able to work afterwards.  I was also stressed out as I thought about all that I already spent on presents for various people in my life, and now I had to spend this additional money and have less time to eat my lunch!  However, all my anxiety turned out to be for naught, because although I did have to spend more time and money, I also got to eat some things that I have never really tried before—and turned out to be pretty good.  Additionally, one of my kind and generous friends, Allison*, graciously gave me almost her whole bag of her favorite onion ring chips. What I have learned about not being anxious is to look for the good in my uncomfortable, bad, or anxiety-producing situations. If I can’t think of any, I should try to ask myself what good can come out of the situation at hand. For instance, if I don’t have time to complete my work, I should try to focus on doing a good job on the work that I CAN complete, instead of rushing to try to complete everything and doing a half-hearted job. I also am still learning and have learned that when I let God be in control, my anxiety goes away.  When you become anxious, reminding yourself that God’s got this, or that things often don’t turn out as badly as we fear they might, really can help the anxiety go away, or, at least, lessen in severity.
  2. Another thing that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate joy. — Sometimes, in the midst of stress and busyness, we forget to enjoy life.  I know that is often the case with me. One of my online friends even had suggested to me in the midst of me writing about my stress that week to take time and enjoy myself.  Yes, we should love and serve others, but we should also not forget to have joy in doing so.  Also, we need to take time to rest and recharge occasionally so we can minister more effectively to others and not get burnt out.  One of the things that I like to do for relaxation and recharging is to read about various topics such as various recipes, different places around the world (travel),  exercise, inspirational topics, and much more.  I used to be part of an online blogging group that encouraged me to read other people’s blogs, which were on a wide range of topics.  Because of this, I was able to broaden my interests. One thing I would recommend to anyone struggling to find something that they enjoy doing or having more hobbies is to force yourself to read books in a library or articles online on a variety of topics that seem interesting to you.  Then, as you learn about more things, often your interest in that said topic broadens as well.  Also, when we serve others, we should have joy in getting to know those who we are serving and focusing on their contentment, rather than on the stress of having one more thing added to our “list” of things to do. Also, when we focus this Christmas on having the joy in having Jesus come to earth as a human baby to eventually grow up and become the ultimate sacrifice for us, instead of the busyness and commercialism that this society often puts in Christmas, we will be happier to serve others.
  3. The most important thing I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate love.– Since it says in the Bible, in various places, that Jesus is the embodiment of love,  and since love is what makes Christmas more meaningful, I learned that instead of acting like the Grinch, I should strive to love others more.  Christmas is not only the time to give presents to family and friends, but also to be willing to sacrifice for them and others.  For instance, if Christmas is difficult for someone, sacrificing your time to be there for them to encourage them through it and helping them cope with this time of year, can make their Christmas a little bit brighter than usual.  Giving others hope when they are in a hopeless or a desperate situation can help them to see God’s love and to know that they are not alone.  Another way to love others is to thank the people in your life that have made the most positive difference in your life. For instance, if a teacher or manager at work has really encouraged you in your abilities in some ways, now is the time to thank them and to let them know that they are not taken for granted. If your parents and/or significant other have served you faithfully for a long time, now is the time to let them know that you notice their sacrifice and their service on your behalf.

So, as this post is as much to myself, as to you, the reader, I hope we will cultivate the character of Christmas in our hearts and lives, so that we can impact the world for the better.  When we don’t have Christmas in our hearts, the joy, peace, and love that flows out of the Christmas spirit, will never be found even under a tree. Let’s pray that this will not be true of us this Christmas season, but instead we will embody the joy, love, and peace that this time of year is supposed to bring, not only to ourselves, but more importantly, to God and others.