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Happy Memories from Bad Experiences
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3 NLT).
I love the encouragement found in the book of Philippians. One of the reasons Paul wrote this book was to thank the church at Philippi for their help. He writes, “I thank God for the help you gave me” (Philippians 1:5). He also wrote, “no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only” (Philippians 4:15); “Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again” (Philippians 4:16). The generosity of the Philippians to Paul compelled him to assure them “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). This is quite a thank you letter.
It should be noted that Paul did not have a pleasant experience in Philippi. He was beaten, whipped, humiliated, falsely arrested, thrown into prison, and survived an earthquake. Then, he
was asked by the city leaders to leave town. In spite of all of this, Paul writes, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3).
How can he survive such a difficult experience but express such deep gratitude? Paul is consciously choosing where to focus his attention. He has selected not to dwell on the painful memories but to express gratitude for the good things that had been done for him and through him.
I have a friend that lost his house and all of his possessions in a flood a few years ago. We were recently talking about the flood and he said, “I do not really remember the flood itself, damages, or losses, but I vividly remember the angels that God sent to help rebuild and refurnish my house.” What a testimony! He saw the Hand of Christ throughout the flood and the subsequent recovery.
Our mental, physical, and spiritual health is connected. Too often we allow painful memories to linger in our minds and then suffer the adverse consequences to our physical and spiritual health. Scripture teaches us to “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This process allows us to “weed out” negative thoughts and live a life of gratitude. Paul was likely following his own advice that he gave the Philippians. “… Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable” (Philippians 4:8).
Paul had a lot of reasons to focus on painful memories of Philippi. Instead, he chose to be grateful for the people that helped him, and the work God was doing in and through them to build His church. When we forgive others for their wrongs against us, then we can have happy memories even though we had difficult circumstances. This attitude honors God, and He bless our relationships far beyond our expectations when we focus on His blessings.
Prayer: Dear God: Thank you for helping us to forget painful memories and focus our thoughts on you. Please continue to lead, guide, and direct us in all that we do. May others know that we are Christians by our love. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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