Monday, July 14, 2014

The Secret of Gratitude

I've found a secret in Philippians.    

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6

Traditionally I have skipped over the thanksgiving part of that scripture.  My brain zooms in on the part about never worrying about anything and I think, “Yeah. Right.”  I settle in the notion that I’ve always been a worrier and that will never change.  I settle like dust on an old unused item.  But when I dissect the verse and find gratitude, ah, now the light peaks through slightly and I’m on the verge of a revelation.  Thanksgiving.  How does it tether to anxiety? 

When we choose to be thankful for the good people and things in our lives, we are pointed straight back to our creator.  Everything pleasant, pure, and wholly good comes from him (James 1:17).  I can’t meditate on those lovely gifts given to me and not acknowledge the giver.  It’s why many of you who have experienced marital heartbreak remove your wedding rings before the divorce is final.  The gift triggers a remembrance of the one who lovingly offered it to you.  And that can be an excruciating reminder day in and day out.  

On the other hand, when I think about my Father’s gifts, the always gracious gifts from my heavenly father, it invokes an entirely different emotion.  It pushes up peace and security.  It breaks through the pain with hope for one more day.  That, my sweet friend, is how thanksgiving totally eclipses anxiety.  That is why the book of James tells us that instead of succumbing to our anxiety, we should bring our concerns and our hurts to God while thanking him for all the good in our lives.  It’s a salve for a burned heart, and if used according to the directions, it will work every time. *

At the beginning of this year, I started keeping a gratitude journal.  I write down things that I am grateful for, but might otherwise take for granted.  Sometimes it's big things like redemption and restoration.  Other times it's small things like coffee and clean underwear.  It depends on the day I'm having, because gratitude is a practice.  It doesn't come easily at first, especially in seasons when your life seems wrecked by tough stuff.  But given enough practice, you too can find that Gratitude covers a multitude of sins. 

*The first three paragraphs are an excerpt from a book I'm writing.  I hope to share it in full with the world one day.

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