This year, I decided to be proactive. In the hopes of brightening up this dismal month a bit, I issued a gratitude challenge: #28DaysOfThanks, inviting others to join me in deliberately giving thanks for something every day in February. And so every evening for the past three weeks, I've sat at my computer and considered my day, my life. To my surprise, it didn't come all that easily. It was a bit of a challenge to pick out the few bright spots in my days for which I felt I could genuinely give thanks. There have been quite a few hard things that have come across my path this month, and it's been difficult at times to sift through them and find the silver linings. But they were always there, and after I'd completed my short list, there was always a little glow in my heart that wasn't there before.
That's all well and good - it's been an excellent discipline; but it just occurred to me that maybe something is slightly askew in my thinking about gratitude. I mean, should I really only be thankful for the good, the positive, the excellent, the pleasant, the lovely, the beautiful, the fun? A little verse tucked away in first Thessalonians provides a very clear answer: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (5:18) I'd forgotten - again! It's amazing how little it takes to distract me from the truth.
Financial hardship, relationship issues, real estate worries, parenting dilemmas, job hassles, health concerns, even weather woes - in all these things and more, I am instructed to give thanks. Maybe it's being a little nit-picky, but the word "in" is really significant to me here. I don't think God's necessarily asking me to give thanks for these things, but to rejoice always because He's in it with me - ALWAYS! I can intentionally train myself to focus on God and His presence and power in the midst of my trials and anxieties and sufferings and sorrows. God promises me that this will make a difference:
which transcends all understanding,
These verses have been among my favourites for a long time, but it's only been very recently that I found the real power that resides in this passage. It's a beautiful trade-off any way you look at it: I give God my worries, He gives me His peace. But a little question always niggled in the back of my mind - why do I have to go first? I present my requests, then He gives the peace? That's not how God generally operates, from what I've seen. He takes the initiative, He makes the first move, He provides the faith and the motivation and the strength and the courage, and I respond...So, although I have always drawn comfort from these verses, they confused me a little, too.
Along comes a simple devotional a few months ago that points out the tiniest of details, and opens my eyes to the real game-changer. I had never paid too much attention to the four little words that directly precede the aforementioned passage: "The Lord is near." The Lord is near! See how it changes the whole tone of the passage:
The Lord is near.
which transcends all understanding,
That's what makes all the difference! That's how I can "not be anxious about anything" - God is right here with me, just waiting to hear my prayer and bear my burden and replace my worry and fear and doubt with His peace. Like I said above, He's right there, in the trials with me, protecting and comforting and guiding and empowering me to give thanks, to rejoice, to worship, to leave it all in His completely capable hands and appropriate His incomprehensible peace and rest.
So, thank you, Father - thank you for all of it, and for being right here with me in it, always. Amen.