All of us have messy and sometimes tragic lives. During times of difficulty, it’s easy to fixate on these tragedies, mishaps, or trials, allowing them to become our central focus. Perhaps we’ve lost someone we love. Maybe a relationship has ended. Perhaps the cancer is back. Maybe a tragedy of such immense proportions has struck us down or someone we love that we can barely deal with it.

These things happen to all of us. Since sin entered the world, this is normal life. Everyone experiences hardships.

Nowadays, my hardship is a cluster of autoimmune diseases that shape all my days. The food I eat, my strategies for getting through the day, the supplements I take, my physical therapy, the time I go to bed, whether I can leave the house, and how I go about my work—everything is dictated by my autoimmune diseases.

Therefore, it’s easy to focus on the pain and the difficulties of each day. But, when I do this, my view becomes narrow, my outlook small, my thoughts darkened. Eventually, I find I have tunnel vision, my mind fixated on everything that is wrong, rather than all that is right.

Recently, I realized that I wasn’t dwelling on what is positive, good, and true. I wasn’t mindful of God’s blessings. My thoughts had roamed wild. For me, wild thoughts are usually dark. Chronic pain does this. This isn’t a good strategy for thriving and rejoicing in what God has given.

Soon after realizing that my thoughts had gone dark, I had a routine doctor visit. During that visit, we discussed my health history—I was able to get pregnant and to birth six healthy children. I never lost any, never miscarried, and was able to get pregnant easily. This is a rare and unexpected gift, an undeserved kindness.

There are people I love who can’t have children. They seem far more likely to parent well. I don’t understand the whys of my undeserved treasures. I was only a teenager when I had my first two children. But God, in his wondrous and incomprehensible grace gave these blessings to me–the broken girl, the teenage mother. When so much else was lost, my children enriched my life and still do as adults.

In the middle of my exam my doctor had to leave immediately. An urgent situation tore her away to perform an emergency c-section. No complication like that ever happened to me. Her quick dash out the door was a vivid reminder. The Lord had my attention!

These extravagant blessings and many other treasures and kindnesses of God in my life far outweigh the challenges of my chronic illness. You have your great blessings, too. What are they?

Instead of focusing on the difficulties, on yet another diagnosis of doom, and on the pain, why doesn’t praise for these good gifts fill my heart every single day? Why don’t I muse on the blessings that are far more significant than any sickness can be? Why?

My challenge, and perhaps yours as well, is to keep my eyes on the blessings, the kindnesses, and on the Giver of those blessings, rather than getting lost in the hard things. To do this, I must guard my thoughts, taking them captive and deliberately choosing to praise the Lord for his goodness and his many gifts, trusting him to carry me through whatever is difficult.

What good and kind gifts has the Lord given to you?

We often take our blessings for granted—a bed to sleep in, clean water, a roof over our heads, unpolluted air, food on the shelves, family around us, breath in our lungs, freedom of religion and speech, an education, people we love, a job, maybe even a job we love. Simply looking around can remind us of our blessings.

The most tremendous blessing to consider is that Jesus the Messiah died to pay for our sins and that he rose from the dead, so that we might be made right with God. His victory gives us new life! It guarantees our salvation! One day we will be with him! We only need to turn from our broken ways, confessing our need for Jesus in our lives, placing our faith in him, and entrusting ourselves and our lives to him. (Click here to find out more.)

We’re particularly mindful of God’s love on this day—Good Friday—but it’s a sustaining truth for every single day. It’s easy to slip into the darkness, rather than to focus on the good things—salvation, the kindness and support of God in hardship, Jesus’ mercy, the blessings of life. Today I’ve shared pictures that emphasize these gifts. I hope they’ve encouraged you. Feel free to copy, pin, or share them.

May the Lord help us as we reset our thoughts on the blessings, naming them, taking our thoughts captive to dwell on the good, rather than the difficult. May we habitually remember the beautiful and the good, fixing our eyes on Jesus and thanking him for all he has done and continues to do for us.

Lord, help us to be ever mindful of all you’ve given and all you are!