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.
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 Virginia.