Does Thankfulness Really Work?
It was when I was so frustrated and anxious about life. I remember rolling green paint onto the kitchen walls of a house I had only wanted to live in for a year, knowing it was going to be longer. Looking into the faces of stubborn toddlers and longing for some parenting answers. Glancing out the window at the cold frozen ground and wondering when we would be able to start on the house we couldn’t afford but were building anyway.
I was down.
In prayer I pleaded with my God to lift me up. To somehow bring me out of my low place so I could be more useful to my kids, more pleasant around my husband, and so I could find some peace in my soul.
I wanted joy.
Over and over again God led me to verses like Thes 5:18:
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Or Phil 4:6 would slide into view:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Verse after verse and I would roll my eyes. I don’t FEEL thankful, thank you very much!! And how in the world am I supposed to be joyful always? I just felt like a failure.
But then I was moved to see a pattern. In all these verses, I was being commanded to give thanks in my prayers. Suddenly I realized that the verses weren’t saying “You should feel thankful, you ungrateful jerk,” they were saying “Regardless of how you feel, be thankful anyway.” Identify what you are thankful for. It will help.
So begrudgingly, I began.
It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t every morning at 5 am without fail.
It was a human, awkward, real-life attempt to be more thankful because that’s what God told me to do.
And it changed things.
This simple act of thankfulness; it was powerful. I prayed my thankfulness in the context of these verses, and I asked God to give me joy and I asked God to help me look to Him when I was hurting and frustrated. And then I saw the part about pray CONTINUALLY and the Holy Spirit led me to my Father’s feet throughout my day.
It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t every minute of the day without fail.
It was a human, awkward, real-life attempt to be in prayer more because that’s what God told me to do.
And anyway I was desperate.
Amazing things happen when we are desperate don’t they?
God’s Word moved me. It was one more example of God showing me how HIS Word is where I can find answers. How HIS Word is wise and trustworthy and faithful.
Lately in my writing and speaking the concept of thankfulness has creeped in. These verse have snuck into conversations and I’m feeling the Holy Spirit nudge me. Tell them about thankfulness. It’s an answer for so many aching hearts.
But I found myself resisting.
What if it doesn’t work for them?
What if I tell someone that one of the answers to their pain is “be thankful” and they tell me that doesn’t work for them?
What if my answer is insensitive to their question?
After one of my sessions a woman started opening up to me about her pain. 5 years since her husband died suddenly and it was so hard. She found comfort in Thessalonians 5:18.
So thankfulness worked for you? It changed things?
Yes! The Holy Spirit worked through it! It has been something I have clung to.
What if it doesn’t work for everyone? I asked sheepishly, vulnerably.
It’s God’s Word. It works. She reaffirmed.
It’s not a self-help book, the Holy Spirit chimed in. It’s the Holy infallible Word of God.
Over and over again, thankfulness in prayer is God’s answer to our question “What I do about this mess and stress?!”
As a speaker I’m nervous about getting up and saying to people: God says if you are stressed out, you should give thanks in prayer.
As if it was MY idea.
If God’s Word says as a response to anxiety we should pray thanksgiving in the context of our supplication, then who am I to doubt?! News flash, Angie: It’s God’s Word!
Satan is thrilled that I’m worried about offending my audience. But the Holy Spirit led me to be vulnerable so I could be reminded of the perfect, powerful, faithful Word of God. So I could be steered back on track to remember my ministry is about turning to God’s Word for answers.
- Give thanks in all circumstances. God says it will help.
- God’s Word is solid and Truth and infallible.
- Satan is a jerk.