Question. If you were given a moment to give a personal State of the Union address — one that simply pertained to all things related to the life of {Insert Your Name Here} — what would it say? Do you think you’d come up with a list of all good things? Mostly good things? You like your job, you’re happily married, the people you love are in good health, and so on?

Would your State of the Union address (like mine sometimes) eventually head down a rabbit trail of looking at what you think is missing? If the challenge was to be most honest — might you take a deep breath and say “I’m often unhappy and here’s a list of why’s”?

If I had my head on straight, giving a genuine and honest overview of my opinion of my life at the moment, I could make two very true statements. 1) I am so ridiculously blessed in so many facets, I could write a hundred blog posts and never give all the reasons. 2) Discontentment, comparison and ingratitude often steal my joy by distracting me from the truth of Statement Number 1.

Number one seems obvious enough to take at face value: I have a home to live in, we eat three meals every day. Besides the occasional cough and cold my kids are healthy. Our family business (Quiver Tree Photography!) is growing, and we are encouraged that the risks we’ve taken by putting a lot of eggs in that basket have the potential to put food on the table long term. I’m happily married. Our children are a constant source of joy. We give thanks often.


But Statement Number Two, friends. Statement Number Two. Here is one amazing thing: the enemy of my soul will try his darndest to help me focus on WHAT’S MISSING. Or better put, what seems to be missing. {I will put these next examples in second person, because I’m confident I’m not the only one in this situation, and I hope it will help you to consider whether Statement Number Two would be a valid addition to your State of the Union.}

The enemy’s efforts to direct your attention toward what seems to be missing often work like this:

Instead of everything that is wonderful and good and praiseworthy about your spouse, you tend to see the handful of things that you think are wrong. (i.e., Sure, he works very hard every day, puts up with a lot of stress and still comes home and plays with the kids for you to make dinner or does bath time or bed time, but will he EVER help with the dishes? Or hang his dang towel back on the hook? Or take you out for a meal every once in a while?)

Instead of everything that is good about your job, you struggle to see past the things that are wrong: the one co-worker who isn’t pulling his weight, the lousy amount of vacation you get each year, the raise you are confident you deserve. (Not saying ya don’t, friend… not saying ya don’t.)

Instead of everything that is good about your home, you struggle to see past the things you wish were different: it’s too small for our family, I just don’t like how the rooms are arranged, it basically doesn’t look like it belongs in a magazine.

And — this can seem small but still be a big one — instead of seeing the good, happy, healthy relationships you have in the people around you, you turn your gaze to the things you weren’t invited to, the cliques everyone seems to have but you, the events everyone else seems to be enjoying that you are not a part of.

What a powerful strategy of the enemy of our souls this is! It’s like a game of trying to keep you distracted from remembering which cup the ball is under — an attempt to convince you there’s actually not a ball at all.

And, can you believe it’s practically the oldest trick in the book? It dates back to the garden, friends. And we’re still getting played.

Picture Adam & Eve — participants in an idyllic paradise. So surrounded by glorious blessings were they — the presence of God, and everything they could have ever needed. God created and it. was. good. But the one thing they couldn’t have blinded them — and out with a slither and a whisper, the inherent question behind the face value question was Is God really good?

Sure, the serpent phrased it as “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?”

But could that translate: What exactly is God withholding from you?

Eve answered, ““We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But could that translate: Well, we can eat the fruit of the trees, but there is one tree we can’t eat from, and there are consequences if we eat it. Which I guess means God is withholding something from us.

The serpent followed up that response with a big fat lie, and the rest, as you know, is history. She decided the fruit did look good, she believed God was withholding something good from her — and she was so focused on what was being withheld, she was completely blinded to all that she’d been given. And Adam, right there with her, fell into the same trap.

Seems dumb, amIright?

But do we ever trade an idyllic paradise for a lousy apple?

Do men and women ever trade what could be a happily ever after marriage for the apple that throws meaningful glances and complements their way? The whisper that things could be better and something’s missing?

Do people ever trade the choice of a reasonably-sized home and enslave themselves to an excessive mortgage for the lie that happiness is synonymous with extra square footage?

Do all of us sometimes trade what could be joy and peace in our every day lives because discontentment, ingratitude, and comparison whisper so loudly: ALL OF THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, and THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS BROKEN FOR THIS TO BE WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

We are missing the orchards and orchards of gifts in the days of our lives because we think there’s a better apple on the other side of the fence.

I challenge you today friends — while your Facebook feed and commercials on TV, magazine covers and the darkness in your own soul all team up to tell you your life is just not good enough — stand back, take off your shoes and see: see what has been given.

Do you know how to read? What a gift! Do you have food to eat? What a gift! Are you currently employed? Have a place to call home? Are you able to walk? Able to see? Have a fellow human being to talk to or occasionally share a meal with? Gift, gift, giftgift, GIFT!

David once wrote, “You fill my cup to overflowing. Surely Your goodness and love will be with me all my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” {Psalm 23:5-6}

David was the outcast inside his own family — the kid sent to watch the sheep while his brothers went to the army, the one not invited when Samuel the prophet came to visit — and if you follow the story of his life in the years that follow, you know it was full of mess. King Saul was out to kill him, his son betrayed him and started a massive rebellion, he made his own bad decisions while looking for an apple on the other side of the fence — but, at any of the trial-filled moments that filled his life, how could he say God’s goodness would always be with him?

Two words.

Perspective and Thankfulness.

{That was kind of three — sorry.}

Two different people with the very same set of circumstances can have completely different opinions about their own State of the Union. One does well to see the forest, the other is distracted by a few unpleasant trees. And I regret to admit how much joy I’ve missed out on because I failed to just see and give thanks.

So here’s the sermon in a nutshell at the heart of all this: Aim to look for and consistently celebrate the good gifts in your lives, friends. Don’t miss out on enjoying the orchards of gifts you’re showered with every day, for the sake of a few bad apples.

In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. {I Thess. 5:18, NASB}