I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little bit down and discouraged about the state of the world, current events, and the like.

I stopped watching the news on TV years ago because it was just too depressing.  I care deeply about this world and the people in it, which means that sometimes the pain and the sorrow and the struggles threaten to overwhelm me – whether they’re down the street or on the other side of the world.

But I’ve realized that I can choose to see the whole picture of life on earth.  The beautiful, the good, and the joyful are present, as well.  Learning to look for those things, celebrate them, honor and give thanks for them is a discipline that we can all cultivate.

I am not talking about a naïve, Pollyanna-esque, “always look on the bright side of life” kind of philosophy.

What I mean is that I can look at the world – my country – my city – my neighborhood – my family – and see the evil and the grief and the despair, and I can acknowledge that they exist, but then I can also look for and find the beauty, goodness, provision, and order in the world around me.

In some circles, this is referred to as “common grace.” It is called common grace because it is a gift for everyone everywhere, and it exists for the common good of us all.

Common grace is the rain that fell last week on the drought-stricken lands of Central Texas that I call home.

The day-to-day workings of our highways, stoplights, railroad crossings, and emergency alert systems are all common grace.  Imagine trying to function in most cities without those things!

Common grace is the nine-to-five job, the weekly paycheck, the full refrigerator, and the gas available for us to buy at the gas station.

It’s the birth of a baby, the smile of a friend – or stranger – and a cup of strong, hot coffee in the morning.

Consider this: we are, all of us, both recipients and stewards of common grace.  We live and breathe in it, whether we know it or not.  We help to shape it and pass it on to those around us.

So look for it.  Count on it. Common grace is a gift for each and every one of us, and it exists for the common good.