The Secret to the Good Life

The widest river in the world is not the Mississippi, Amazon, or Nile. The widest river on earth is a body of water called If Only.

Throngs of people stand on its banks and cast longing eyes over the waters. They long to cross but can’t seem to find the ferry. They are convinced the If Only River separates them from the good life.

If only I were thinner, I’d have the good life.

If only I were richer, I’d have the good life.

If only the kids would come. If only the kids were gone. If only I could leave home, move home, get married, get divorced.

If only my skin were clear of pimples, my calendar free of people, my profession immune to layoffs, then I would have the good life.

The If Only River.

This Thanksgiving, are you standing on its shore? Does it seem that the good life is always one if only away? One purchase away? One promotion away? One election, transition, or romance away?

If so, then we’ve traced your anxiety back to one of its sources. You’re in a hurry to cross the river and worried that you never will. Consequently, you work long hours, borrow more money, take on new projects, and pile on more responsibilities. Stress. Debt. Short nights. Long days. All part of the ticket cost to the land of the good life, right?

Not exactly, opined the Apostle Paul. The good life begins, not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does. Look again at his antidote for anxiety. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6).

Paul embedded two essential words into the verse that deserve special attention: with thanksgiving. Sprinkled among the phrases of Help me… Please give me… Won’t you show me… are two wonderful words— Thank you.

Gratitude is a mindful awareness of the benefits of life. It is the greatest of virtues. Studies have linked the emotion with a variety of positive effects. Grateful people tend to be more empathetic and forgiving of others. People who keep a gratitude journal are more likely to have a positive outlook on life. Grateful individuals demonstrate less envy, materialism and self-comparison. Thankfulness improves self-esteem, enhances relationships, quality of sleep, and longevity.[1]

If it came in pill form, gratitude would be deemed the miracle cure. It’s no wonder, then, that, God’s anxiety therapy includes a large, delightful dollop of gratitude.

Gratitude leads us off the river bank of “if only” and escorts us into the fertile valley of “already.”  The anxious heart says, “Lord, if only I had this, that, or the other, I’d be ok.” The grateful heart says, “Oh, look! You’ve already given me this, that, and the other. Thank you, God.”

On Thanksgiving, as you gather around a table with friends and family, instead of looking at what you don’t have, look at your blessings.

Do you see any friends? Family? Do you see any grace from God? Love of God? Do you see any gifts? Abilities or talents? Skills?

As you look at your blessings, take note of what happens. Anxiety grabs his bags and slips out the back door. Worry refuses to share the heart with gratitude. One heartfelt “thank you” will suck the oxygen out of worry’s world. So say it often. Focus more on what you do have and less on what you don’t.

Years ago I lived on a houseboat that was docked on the Miami River in Miami, Florida. The level of the river would rise and fall with the tide. It rocked back and forth with the river traffic. But though the level changed and the boat rocked, it never drifted. Why? Because the boat was securely anchored.

What about you?

Anchor your heart to the character of God. Your boat will rock. Moods will come and go. Situations will fluctuate and change. But will you be left adrift on the Atlantic of despair? No, for you have found a contentment that endures the storm.

No more if only. It is the petri dish in which anxiety thrives. Replace your if only with already. Look what you already have. Treat each anxious thought with a grateful one and prepare yourself for a new day of joy.

© Max Lucado


3 comments on “The Secret to the Good Life

  1. So true indeed. I wish to have known all of that earlier. But, I thank God. I want to apply it to my life.
    Stay blessed Pastor Max

  2. Thanku Max A lovely message full of hope and positivity – for which I would like to show u my “gratitude” and which I will hold onto in my heart xx

  3. Mr. Lucado as always your messages comes across to me that you understand where I once were and where I am at the time and it helps to move me forward to wanting and embracing for change to happen. I always pay it forward and share what you write with others and they, too, use it as a guiding tool (path) to where they need to be. Let me put it this way: What you share with us, God uses, to let me see where I really am, and I see clearly the bridge in front of me, that I need to cross, where freedom awaits me with a new direction and other times, I was on the right side of the bridge but somehow I’m giving in to something that has taken me to the middle of the bridge, heading the wrong way and I read what you wrote and it exposes the dark side that I really do not want to go there and so I see the way back to the light that always welcomes me back and I’m so grateful that I never went all the way towards despair but instead I was spared. Its like, really, God does not need us to get His perfect Will done but He always had it in mind, at creation, for us to be used and to share in all that He planned to do. After knowing His Endless love, power through Jesus, grace, mercy, forgiveness, I never want to find myself so lost that I have forgotten who literally gave me His new breath to bring me back to life and to live it through Him. Because any attempts to do anything different I really get to that point where I don’t know myself and I really don’t know how to live this life here on earth without walking close to my Savior that gives me all the security and guidance I need to no longer feel so lost like I once were and all I can do is cry out that I don’t want to live any more. I felt that everything was taken from me and I was stripped of all identity and all along God had a plan for my life and how He would choose to use all He allowed to happen to me, for His glory and purposes and I can truly say at this moment in time, that He does not and have never disappointed me in how He went about bringing me to this point of my life and how He used every bit of my past horrible life to help others. Honestly, God’s love and its power is the only love I have ever known that does not come with abuse, destruction and devastation and etc. Where do I go from here is to Love Him back with all that is in me and stay within His work in progress to love others freely with no conditions. I’m not sorry that I took this much time and words to testify how He made something beautiful out of my life when all I had to offer Him was brokenness confusion and strife. I just want Him to be glorified and exalted and given continues praise and gratitude. Thank you for staying with me till the very end of this message.

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