The Power of Thankfulness
Recently, I felt so low that I wanted to crawl under my desk and sob. God’s grace kept me in my seat, and I made it home in one piece physically. Mentally and emotionally, I was torn by painful life circumstances that only seemed to get worse. I called a friend that night to vent and was surprised at the venom spewing from my lips. Something had to change.
My focus was skewed. All I could see were dark stains of heartache, instead of seeking God’s light. I needed to look for joy instead of letting the whirlwind sweep me away. That night I made a top five gratitude list:
First, the sunset displayed God’s splendor. If I only saw the gray cloud surrounding my circumstances, I would’ve missed God's majestic pink and purple masterpiece in the sky that evening. It reminded me that the Almighty Artist was painting my life so that He received glory. The canvas wasn’t complete and needed contrast from shadows.
Second, third, and fourth, God provided for my basic needs of shelter and clothing. The day before I’d met a homeless woman. She was an alcoholic. Her husband had kicked her out of the house and then sold it. I offered to call her insurance for help, but she wasn’t interested. She took a scarf and blanket as she told me that she slept in a cemetery. My life was amazing by comparison.
Fifth, I had friends to encourage me during my season of darkness. God had not left me alone. My friend graciously let me rant and rage about how I wondered if I was cursed because so many terrible things kept happening. It felt like a game of whack-a-mole, with the large hammer walloping me as soon as I was brave enough to venture out again. I concluded that we live in a fallen world. Even as Christians we are not immune to suffering.
Yet, despite our suffering, we are to praise. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” My mom cautioned against using words like always and everything because usually there were exceptions. However, the Bible tells us we are to rejoice always and in everything give thanks. Does this mean I am supposed to be happy about horrible things beyond my control? No. Does this mean that if I look for good in the midst of trouble, I’ll find something to be thankful for? Yes.
Thankfulness is a spiritual weapon that brings peace. Philippians 4:7-8, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When we offer our petitions to the Lord, we come with thanksgiving. Sometimes, maybe all we have to be grateful for is the breath in our lungs. That counts. If you can’t find much, ask God to show you. The list is probably much longer than you imagine.
Another place where Scripture connects the concepts of thankfulness and peace is Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Since I wrote the gratitude list above, I've prioritized writing what I’m thankful for every night before going to sleep. I’ve even gotten out of bed twice to ensure that I captured my blessings on paper.
The power of gratitude is unstoppable. The process is starting to change how I think. Recently, while commuting to work, I wondered what my list would look like that night. When I started looking for things to be grateful for, I discovered five things was insufficient. My circumstances remain the same, but my peace has multiplied.
Maybe you feel like you are living at the bottom of the pit of despair with no way out. Cry out to Jesus with your petition, and season your prayer with gratitude. I can’t guarantee that your life will miraculously fall into place tomorrow. However, God’s peace will start to rule your spirit. As you enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, may His peace be the walls that guard your heart and mind.
12/1/2019 04:37:17 pm
The key, you found, is looking for the opportunity to be grateful my young friend. Saint or sinner, we both get wet when God brings the rain. It's up to each one of us to either praise it's life-sustaining qualities or lament that our knickers got wet. For me, gratefulness became easier when I realized that in the end, with Christ, I win. Many battles in this world might I lose, but the battle for eternity has already been one. All I have to do is keep saying "Yes Lord." :-) God's blessings sweet miss. Whatever this life throws at you; you're tough enough to absorb it and keep smiling that amazing smile and twinkling eyes. You're related to a King after all.
12/2/2019 02:19:14 pm
You are right. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Fortunately, God's umbrella of grace prevents us from being flooded. I am a daughter of the King, and He is making a way for me!
12/1/2019 07:58:01 pm
Thank you, Joanna, for a beautiful post. I turn to Philippians 4:7-8 often. The peace of God, a blessing for sure!
12/2/2019 02:16:15 pm
God's word is so full of peace when we need it.
12/2/2019 12:41:13 am
I absolutely love to think of God as the amazingly-creative Artist, and I especially loved your words here: "Almighty Artist was painting my life so that He received glory." Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reminding me to count my blessings - especially those small ones that I may tend to overlook, when I let my thoughts get clouded with negativity.
12/2/2019 02:17:49 pm
I think the little blessings are easy to miss, but lovely to savor. I pray God attunes your awareness to His kindness towards you.
12/2/2019 05:01:08 pm
Isn't it amazing how much difference our perspective makes? I am going through a challenging period as we face the serious illness of a family member. Often, it has been hard to be thankful in "all" circumstances. But, like you, I've chosen to look for the blessings, and most of the time, I succeed. However, those dark moments sometimes creep in. Thank you for this uplifting message.
12/4/2019 08:22:56 pm
It helps me when I remember that while I have dark moments, I don't have to stay there. I will pray for your family member with their sickness right now. I've had several friends in family in emergency rooms this year, so I understand. Another thing to be thankful for is that God is our Healer - Jehovah Rapha.
This is a beautiful post; however, I feel that God knows our honest feelings. We just need to cry and "vent" sometimes. Not to the point of wallowing in self-pity, but for a little while. I hate to think of that poor woman sleeping in a cemetery, but I am sure that you also had your reasons for the way that you were feeling. My husband and I were shot in August. (I saw young men breaking into cars, they saw me see them, and my husband interrupted them threatening me.) I was initially grateful that we were both okay, but also frustrated because this happened at night, and I couldn't provide many details to the police. I was afraid that our attackers would never be identified, that they would be free to commit other crimes and hurt more people. All of them are now in jail, and we still wait to hear their final sentences. I am trying to be grateful and patient. I will pray for you and for that homeless woman.
12/4/2019 08:28:23 pm
Robin, you have been on my heart since I read your response. You are right, there are times we need to pour our hearts out before the Lord and lament our circumstances. David did that over and over again in the Psalms.I will pray for you grace as you await their sentencing. I can only imagine how frustrating that would be.Jesus weeps with you at the injustice that happened to you in this fallen world. I pray you feel His presence.
12/4/2019 11:23:31 am
We all have much to be thankful for. We are blessed beyond measure to live in America. Great post to remind us of our blessings!
12/4/2019 08:20:27 pm
Yes, we have to much to be thankful for! God has blessed us beyond what we deserve.
Besides improving our spiritual life, gratitude is also good for our physical and mental health. One new thing I've been trying to add to this practice is to be grateful for the challenging situations God sometimes puts me in. It's counterintuitive, but I'm trying to do as James instructs in 1:2-4. "...give thanks in all situations...."
12/9/2019 05:21:44 pm
You are right, there are mental benefits, and even physical benefits from being thankful. When you aren't holding the stress in your body, you just feel better. Thanks for the reminder!
12/5/2019 10:28:12 am
I was just thinking yesterday about how you could comfort a friend who was going through a hard time. I had been reading in Psalms about God's awesome character, and I know He doesn't change. The more stuff I go through, the more I'm convinced that He is enough for every situation. I may not be able to explain to someone how God will exactly work in their situation, but I know He has all the love and wisdom and power to rescue and act. For that I'm grateful.
12/9/2019 05:20:27 pm
Hey Katy, Glad it gave you the good idea to write down your blessings at night before going to bed. I have seen a big difference in my perspective as a result. Totally worth the effort. Blessings.
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Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Florida.