Focus on God and not on your situation
I find that most of the time when we are in the middle of a major trial or crisis we believe God will help us. When I was first diagnosed with a spinal tumor I felt some relief that the doctors found the reason for my intense pain and weakness in my legs. I also wondered what would be the treatment plan. When it became clear I needed surgery, I didn't have time to panic. Instead I prayed for God's hands to be with the doctors as they removed the tumor. When the doctor explained the surgery and the possible side effects, I purposely did not pay close attention. I trusted my husband, who I knew was listening. Also, I trusted that God led us to the right hospital and doctors. I chose to believe that God was with the doctors as they took care of me, instead of focusing on the host of things that could have gone wrong.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things." --Phillippians 4:6-8
In this scripture, Paul writes about giving thanks while in prison. He was able to put his trust in God through the storms with prayer and gratitude. Paul was in prison and yet he was not worried by his circumstances. He prayed and stayed thankful. Following his example is challenging, yet rewarding. God promises to fill us with an unexplainable peace when we stay prayerful and thankful.
Develop a broader perspective
My husband and I believe that God's will for our lives was to be missionaries in Spain. Yet we did not realize that his will was much broader. I believe God did not like seeing me in such pain, yet he was able to look ahead at the joy and gratitude it would produce as I learned to live and walk on my own.
Each time we face a hurdle with my recovery, it brings me to my knees in prayer. I can honestly say I am more joyful, grateful, and prayerful after facing this major trial. However, I can also say that I have struggled with negative and depressive thoughts more than I ever have in life. Yet, the negative thoughts also direct me to God. Such depressive thoughts cause me to seek for God's comfort and strength. His promises and truths give me hope and redirect my thoughts.
Gratitude honors God
"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." -- 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)
God's will for us is to be thankful. One of the reasons is because gratitude is proof that we acknowledge that God is sovereign, and our thanksgiving is a way we honor God as God (Romans 1:21). God's will for our lives is for us to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful. This was eye opening for me. How about for you?
There are times that I want something so badly and believe God's will is to answer my prayer with my desired outcome. What happens if his answer is no or not yet? I may not initially have a spiritual response, yet I know deep down that I really desire to please God with the life I live. I'm realizing I can focus on what goes wrong, what is frustrating, or even painful instead of on God's tender mercy and care for every part of my life. My perspective changes when I realize God's answers to my prayers are about what will allow me to be more able to give thanks to him, and to know him and honor him as God - no matter what!
"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)
When I see life through this lens, I trust the outcome of each day. When something does not go as I wish, I choose to trust that the circumstances will help bring me closer to God. This is not a natural instinct for me, but I find when I think this way my attitude is much more joyful and grateful.
God is more concerned with the state of our hearts than with our circumstances. Thankfulness may not be our initial thought but coupled with prayer, we can continually allow God to turn negativity into moments of gratitude.
For further study, here are some scriptures that help me focus on God's promises and fill me with joy and gratitude:
Colossians 3:15-17; Psalm 25:1-2; Psalm 100; Psalm 118; Psalm 145