This year I have tried very hard to see God in everything. And because of intentionally trying, I have been able to see Him in places that I would not have in the past. I am much more aware of his care and love and guidance. I am so thankful that I have been able to look for and find God in some unusual places. I am so thankful for all the usual things that we give thanks for but I am grateful for what He gives and does for me that I seldom notice. We notice the big things to give thanks for, we notice the things that go wrong that we don't want to give thanks for.
Thankfulness is complicated. When life is good, and you get what you want, it is easy to feel thankful. When life is hard, and nothing goes right, it is hard to find your gratitude. For many, difficult times are the easiest excuse to justify ingratitude. The Bible has much to say about being thankful, and it is opposite to our instincts. Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This seems difficult for lots of us, but the Bible is full of hope, of God's unshakable promises, and there are enough reasons needed in order to give thanks in all things.
As difficulties pile up, it's easy to see nothing good, and give up in despair, perpetual anger, and impossible to feel gratitude. My Bible does not pretend there is no suffering, because there will be, “a time to kill … a time to break down … a time to weep … a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4). In order to be thankful at all times, we have to have things that bring us joy, something to always be grateful for, and reminders to turn to those sources of joy and good things when times are hard.
What should be my ultimate source of joy? To get through loss, suffering, and chaos, it needs to be something permanent and unchanging. Jesus prayed to His Father, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). He wants those who love Him to have His joy, and to be thankful for those things which bring joy. The Bible encourages me to focus on eternal things. It is important to thank God for earthly blessings, but in order to always be thankful, there must be things to thank God for that do not rust, decay, or disappear. When the Bible says to give thanks in all things, it asks me to thank God for blessings both visible and invisible. I need to turn away from what I want and desire, and focus on the future promises that will matter forever, that are guaranteed by the Word of God, so there is always something to thank Him for, even if current circumstances are difficult. It’s hard sometimes to remember to look for God in everything. I think it is often because I don't stop and see where my help comes from … and to see the very One who goes before me everywhere.
So, this week, I confess to failing these words of admonition. For some time, I have been experiencing something that has made me uncomfortable and has kept me from getting a good night's sleep. It has gone long enough that I was getting to a point of desperation. And the longer it was happening, the more frustrated and worried I got. It was becoming a big problem for me but when I stopped to try to think clearly, I knew that my problem would seem minor compared to problems that others had so I tried to endure in silence. Silence did not make the problem go away so eventually I gave in to what so many do. To do what I mentally shame others for doing. Sometimes in desperation we do what we should not do, do what we know better to not do. So, I did it! I googled what I was experiencing. [I did not trust.] I learned what I did not want to learn. [I did not trust.] In fact, my google knowledge gave me even more desperation and fear. [It would have been better to trust.]
For several years I have had to consider blood pressure issues. I am one who can get an elevated pressure reading just from thinking about going to a doctor or dentist. So, guess what my googling and thinking did to my blood pressure? If you guess that it helped to lower the bp reading, you would be so wrong. I should not have let myself get so mentally worked up and upset about what I could not control. [I should have trusted.] Still, it was intense enough that my mind was focused on the problem. My worry about "what's wrong?" continued for about a month. Worry, hope, more worry, more worry, faint hope......try to find my own solution---my days and nights were occupied with worry and hope. Problem was they were occupied on SELF. I should have been focused on the one who gave of Himself for me. What's wrong, what's wrong, what's wrong......? My thoughts of what's wrong were the most intense at night because I wasn't sleeping. You probably won't be surprised that all my thinking and worrying made my blood pressure rise. As all this worry was happening, I knew that I had a doctor's appointment coming this past week. That alone could make the mental and blood pressures go up, along with the worry! I know-----the doctor is my friend and guardian!! Telling that to myself doesn't seem to fix the problem I have [I don't trust].
And so, I had my appointment, and one of my fears did come true--the high bp reading! Getting a reading 3 times that visit did not make it change. I have to go back in 2 weeks to see if it gets better. I think it will! And if you are wondering why, this is why I think it will. My self-diagnosis was wrong. The doctor had a very different answer for what is wrong. And I truly like what the doctor said more than what Dr. Google had to say. The outcome seems to be a far easier one for me to accept and I am so happy!!!!!!!!!!! A relieved mind has great value. Prayers answered have even greater value. My lesson in trust has immense value.
At the end of this week, I am filled with THANKSGIVING!!!
At times things in my life have threatened to overwhelm me. And I have fallen for Satan’s lies. I want to have a spiritual discipline of gratitude that gives me the strength to overcome them. Not that the challenges won’t still be there. But my overcoming involves being able to trust God more and live by the truth that I am loved by God, He is my provider, and I don’t have to know all the steps in my future. I just place my foot in the footprint right in front of me. When it’s time, He’ll reveal the next step.#
My gratitude list includes my loving, faithful, and supportive husband; family and friends; safe travels; my church family; the privilege working for Him; home, hot showers, waking up on time, and a rare uninterrupted sleep (those of you who struggle with this, you understand!); and it even includes crisp apples, Kwik Star bread, cream filled long johns; opportunity to share thoughts, and doctors!! And the list goes on.
As we express gratitude/thankfulness for the blessings we have and focus on God’s promises to us, we will discover firsthand that this is not only a good daily exercise. This is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of faith.