For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you. — Proverbs 23:7 NKJV
We’ve probably all come across the following two types of extremes in people. On the one hand, there’s the person who has everything anyone could ask for and yet, somehow, never seems to be happy. There is always a problem, a complaint, or a worry on their lips. On the other hand, there are people who don’t have easy lives from an objective standpoint. Yet, they are always full of love, gratitude, and faith.
The interesting thing is that the circumstances of our lives are less impactful than our attitude toward life. Whether or not we are happy has less to do with what we have and more to do with the thoughts we have.
In Proverbs, King Solomon put it this way: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts determine our lives.
Rabbi Nachman, a famous 18th-century Ukrainian scholar, taught that when a person is asked how he’s doing and responds with “lousy,” God says, “You call this lousy? I’ll show you lousy . . .” And then that person winds up facing worse things than before. But when the person answers joyfully, “I’m doing great, thank God!” — even though he really isn’t doing so well — God says, “You call this good?! I’ll show you good!” And indeed He does.
It’s not that God is being cruel to the person who is going through a rough time. The rabbi explained that when we focus on the bad, the natural consequence of thinking that things will get worse is that they usually do. In fact, the person in the first scenario may not be experiencing difficulties at all, but if someone wants to find something to complain about, one will find it. One can always find a reason to say that things are lousy.
Yet, the opposite is true as well. There is always something to be happy about. Even when times are tough, there is always something for which we can be grateful. And if we focus on the good, God smiles down on us and gives us even more good things to be grateful for in our lives.
Let’s resolve right now to focus on the good things in ourselves, in our lives, in the people in our lives, and in the world. Let’s thank God for them and praise Him for his mercy and blessings. When we show God that we recognize His generosity and that we are grateful for it, we will be deserving of more blessings. That’s a far better way to go through life than focusing on our hardships.
What are you grateful for today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President