I’m noticing a theme.
There is a unifying or dominant idea that has been popping up frequently as I seek God’s help. It’s not new. It’s not confusing. It’s not what I was looking for.
When I cried out in tears under the stars for God to change my heart, he gave me this verse:
Be joyful always; pray continually; GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
He has directed me back to this verse over and over.
When I woke up this morning and my head was filled with worries.. all of which I could NOT tackle today to be sure, I was directed to Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
In order to present my requests to God (please, dear Lord, give me peace and a better attitude and maybe even some energy), it was clear from these instructions that I first had to focus on being thankful. And as I did so, I could see that this thankfulness thing is a bigger part of God’s plan than I may have realized.
It makes sense. When I became a parent, I quickly saw how our relationship with God must mirror, in many ways, that relationship we have with our children. I can imagine, just a bit, how God must feel when the answers are right in front of us and we just can’t seem to find them. I can relate, on some level, when my children complain about things that seem so trivial or when they get stuck in a mood focusing only on one frustrating problem.. yet they have so much to be happy about.
Look at your life! I want to say. You have so little to worry about! You have so much going for you! Don’t get down! Don’t be depressed! Who cares about what that other little girl says?! Ignore her! Be thankful for the friends you have! Don’t be mad that we can’t go outside right now! It will stop raining soon and we can go play! There are plenty of other fun things to do in here. Let’s find them!
Colossians chapter 3, which has a lot of fabulous things to say about how we should live our lives, says this:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. AND BE THANKFUL. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hyms and spiritual songs WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS TO GOD. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.
Let Peace rule in your hearts.. and be thankful.. and let the Word dwell in you richly.. and worship with thankfulness.. and whatever you do, give thanks to Him.
Usually when I seek God, looking for answers or comfort, my first stop is not at the booth of thankfulness. It’s at the booth of whininess. “Here’s my complaints, Lord. Here are my problems! They are falling down all around me and I don’t know what to do…” I cry pathetically.
And He patiently addresses me and my problems.. with the same answers that He has provided so often before. And if I go through my journals and look at my prayers and conversations with God, many of them end up with me listing out the things I have to be thankful for. Frequently they end with a focus on all that I have been provided with, all the incredible people and provisions that I deserve none of. And more peace.
Forgive me, Lord. And thank you.