There is a well-known story of a king who was so unhappy that he dispatched one of his men to go find a happy man. The king ordered, "When you find the happy man, purchase his shirt and bring it back to me that I might wear it and also be happy."

For years the king's emissary traveled and searched. He could not find a happy man. Finally, one day when he was walking in one of the poorer quarters of one of the poorest countries, he heard a man singing at the top of his voice. He followed the sound and found a man who was plowing a field. He asked the plowman, "Are you happy?"

The plowman replied, "I have never known a day of unhappiness."

The king's representative then told the plowman the purpose of his mission.

The plowman laughed uproariously as he replied, "Why, man, I don't have a shirt!"

Get out your calculator

If you would utilize the tonic of praise as an antidote to worry, you must develop a healthy respect and gratitude for the good things God has already given you.

When you're feeling down, you may have to "gird up the loins of your mind" and make a determined effort to focus your attention. God has lavishly bestowed blessings on you. Don't take them for granted.

Your blessings may not be material blessings, but they are real blessings, nevertheless. Actually, no man has ever found joy simply because he acquired material gain. Joy does not consist in the abundance of our material possessions; "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15b).

This very day, as I am writing this chapter, I have entertained as my luncheon guest Jean Baptiste Mugarura from Rwanda. This six-foot, two-inch, 35-year-old African took the Haggai Institute course in Advanced Leadership Training in Singapore in 1999. He was one of the youngest ever to be invited to the program.

Until five years ago, he served as an official in the National Bank of Rwanda (much like the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States). Then came the massacres inflicted upon the Rwandan people by rebel forces. Among those murdered by the rebels were John's fiancee and his mentor. Also, two of the mentor's three children were killed. His mentor, arguably one of the two most influential people in Rwanda, had exerted every effort to bring peace. Yet the rebels slaughtered him. More than one million in this country were killed. It was one of the century's worst bloodbaths.

John entered the dark night of the soul. These were days of deep reflection and self-examination. Yet if you could sit across the table from this radiant executive, now serving the Lord in Rwanda and influencing people across the world, you would never guess he had endured such an experience.

How do I account for it? This man understands the peace formula: PRAISE + POISE + PRAYER = PEACE. In the meantime, the Lord has given him a beautiful wife. He is now thoroughly immersed in full-time Christian work. He carries the load of two normally active leaders. And he is bringing hope and help to the devastated families of Rwanda. Without his ingrained and Spirit-motivated habit of counting his blessings, he could have shriveled up and become bitter and useless.

Consider your blessings. For how much money would you sell the health that God has given to you? How much does your wife's love mean to you? Have you ever thoroughly evaluated the value of your child's devotion? For what amount would you sell your reputation if it could be put on the open market? What premium do you put upon the eyesight God has given you? What about the capacity to hear, and to speak, and to feel, and to taste? Have you ever thought about how impoverished you would be if suddenly you were to be deprived of all your friends?

We tend to take the manifold blessings of God for granted, don't we? Start counting your blessings; your heart will overflow with gratitude and your lips with praise.

As the song reminds us:

I had the blues
Because I had no shoes;
Until upon the street
I met a man who had no feet.

Count your blessings. If it will help you, take time to periodically write out your blessings on a piece of paper. Praise God for the love of your wife, the affection of your children, your good health, the encouragement of your friends. As you exert some effort along this line, blessings by the score will come crowding into your consciousness. You will soon feel your heart singing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!" And you will be honoring the Lord in obeying the exhortation of Philippians 4:4, which tells us to rejoice always.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. —Psalm 139:17,18

Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. —Psalm 40:5

Keep praising through disaster

Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the last century, wrote of a young man who had suffered an accident in which he had broken his hip.

The hip did not heal properly and it left the man crippled. People prayed earnestly that God would restore this young man to health and strength. Shortly after the people began their intense and concerted intercession on behalf of this young man, apparent tragedy struck. The young man fell and broke his hip again.

What were they to make of this? It would have been completely natural for them to abandon their intercession, for the condition had clearly worsened, not improved.
Fortunately, however, many of the intercessors—wise and mature Christians—saw God's hand in the entire affair. They began praising Him and thanking Him for the blessing. Because it had been broken a second time, the hip had now set perfectly. It wasn't long until convalescence under God's leadership had done its perfect work. The young man walked with no limp whatsoever. The tragedy was a blessing in disguise.

Count your blessings! Even when things seem to go wrong, thank God and take courage. Say with the apostle Paul, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

In the last chapter I mentioned my son. In 1950, the Lord blessed us with a precious baby boy. After the disastrous circumstances of his birth, the little fellow nearly died. Though God was pleased to spare him, he was now totally paralyzed. He had a keen mind and all the inclinations and desires of a normal boy, but his body would not respond to the demands of his will. Oh, yes, it hurt—it hurt him and hurt us. However, God gave him a marvelously sweet disposition.

Was his paralysis a blessing? Yes. Definitely so. Between the year of his birth and the year I resigned the pastorate to go into full-time evangelism I undoubtedly buried more infants and ministered to more sick children than any man in any pastorate. God had conditioned me in a special way for a peculiar and yet blessed ministry. The life of my son was also a deep blessing within the family. There are many ways in which I could demonstrate this, but they involve experiences locked up in the cherished and secret places of my heart and open only to God and our immediate family.

Johnny died in 1975, 16 years after the first edition of How to Win Over Worry was published. People came from as far as 5,000 miles away to his funeral. One man who drove from a distant city said, "I never knew exactly how to express to Johnny what an inspiration he was to me. I wanted to come here, because I'm sure he's conscious of this service, and I just want him to know how much he meant to me."

Have the blessings given to us through Johnny survived the test of time? Indeed they have. Despite my thumbprint eyebrows, my deep voice, and my stern looks, children seem to gravitate to me. I believe I carry on a more profound correspondence with children than anyone outside the fields of teaching or child psychology. I can walk into a room where a baby is crying, speak a few words, and the baby stops crying. That I consider to be a blessing, and I must count it.

I must also count it a blessing that Christine and I have survived 55 years of marriage. The reason I say "survive" is that invalidism in the home does not bring you together; it drives you apart. Elizabeth B. Brown, wife of the celebrated medical doctor Paul Brown of Tennessee, writes of their having a sick child in the home for five years. She marvels that the two of them were able to manage it and survive the stress. According to William G. Justice, who wrote When Death Comes in 1982, "Ninety percent of all couples who have lost a child to death have serious marital problems within months of the death of their child. Three out of four divorce within two years."

Praise works in the toughest places

In a nation on the Pacific Rim, a young minister of the gospel preaches to between 1,200 and 1,500 people every Sunday. In that same nation, people have been slaughtered by the thousands. When I met with this remarkable leader in a neutral capital of the world, I said, "How do you handle the pressure of trying to maintain a ministry in a city and nation vocally committed to the destruction of Christianity?"

He smiled at me and said, "How good is God. What blessings He bestows!"

I thought to myself, This poor fellow didn't hear what 1 said.

But then the minister went on to explain.

"God has put us in the eye of the storm. On one side are the communists. On the other side are the Muslims. They are in such hostile combat with each other that by being in the center we are wonderfully protected. Better still, hundreds are coming to know Christ as Savior."

This man was not bemoaning his lot; he was counting his blessings. I don't think that worry finds him a suitable host.

During my visits to Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I met with many Vietnamese people. One man stands out. He told me how he regretted the war and how sorry he was that it was necessary for American boys to come and suffer separation from home, physical injury, and even death.

Then he said, "The greatest victory of this conflict is that the Americans and the Koreans brought the gospel to our village, and we who were in darkness came to know Jesus Christ." This man had lost members of his family. He had lost his business. His home had been burned to the ground. He knew how to count his blessings!

During the Korean conflict of 1950-53, Presbyterian missionary Dr. Harold Voekel had a penetrating and pervasive ministry among the troops on both sides. He personally won to faith in Christ more than 150 North Korean soldiers, 20 of whom are now in full-time gospel ministry.

It was Voekel who introduced my mother and father, so I have more than a casual appreciation for that gentleman. The characteristic that captured my attention every time I met him was his buoyant and resilient Christian optimism in any situation. He knew how to count his blessings, and worry never seemed to catch up with him.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

And one of the greatest surprises will be the fact that you are no longer saddled by that monster, worry, who has been riding hard on you.

Let me urge again that when you become depressed and worried you should take a piece of paper and literally force yourself to write out every blessing that comes to mind. Concentrate. Think hard. Sure, it will take time, but not as much time as worrying will. It won't take as much time as an interview at the psychiatrist's office—and it will be considerably cheaper. Furthermore, in the strength of God you will be actively doing something about your own condition. This is much more effective than passively submitting to psychotherapy.

I'm not saying that psychotherapy has no place, or that severer psychiatric conditions do not need a specialist's attention. Psychiatrists and counselors can provide enormous help in the right situation. Nevertheless, there are many people who frequent the offices of psychiatrists and counselors who could be enjoying full mental and emotional health right now had they only taken certain precautions and observed the biblical formula earlier in life:

Praise plus Poise plus Prayer equals Peace.

It works.