January 8, 2013

God’s will for me — thankfulness

This morning I awoke from a dream that concerned the deepest blanks (for want of a better word) in my life. The dream was vivid enough that I felt as if my footing had been yanked from under my feet. I’ve had these dreams before and the emotions that rise up have the ability to ruin an entire day. 

But God had another plan. This time I’d just finished reading “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The parts of the book that affected me the most were stories of people in horrible circumstances such as persecution, pillage and rape who were thankful to God for all good things, regardless of what was happening to them.

So as soon as God brought this to mind, I gave thanks. I thought of many good things that He has used to fill in the blanks, including His own dear Self. Had I not experienced those losses and pain, I may not be experiencing Jesus. My emotions immediately became more positive. 

Then God kicked it up another notch. Today’s devotional is from this passage from the New Testament:

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)

The reading that goes with it is so wonderful that I am tempted to simple reproduce it word for word. Instead, I will put my own thoughts under the author’s headings as the Lord causes me again to consider the value of thankfulness.

It quells preoccupation with painful memories. I am prone to drop into a mood of sorrow and complaint over events that are long past, thinking I have had such a rough go of it in life. I get annoyed with myself for thinking this way and would like to stop this habit. I know that the best antidote is being in the habit of thankfulness to God. I’ve also noticed that when I can say thanks, even in the middle of such a complaint, I often laugh aloud at my silly brooding.

Thankfulness soothes my distress. Occasionally I notice that I like feeling sorry for myself and don’t want to remember past joys or be comforted by them. If complaints about the past are foolish, this self-torture is even more ridiculous. Thankful thoughts and words change the memory of happier times into a comfort and brings a totally opposite attitude to that nasty self-pity. It cannot stay in the same room with thankfulness.

Thankfulness relieves anxiety. One of my favorite promises from God is this: “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7). Preventing and relieving anxiety happens as soon as I pray about the problem with an attitude and words of thanksgiving. Not only that, God replaces my worries with His deep and incomprehensible peace.

Thankfulness reminds me what God as done and softens my heart. Sometimes I get in a nasty mood of entitlement, thinking I deserve better than what I have. However, when I am thankfully recalling the mercy of my heavenly Father, I remember what would happen if I got what I deserve. How can anyone gripe at the foot of the Cross or not be thankful when recognizing God’s grace, a mercy unearned and never deserved?

Thankfulness heightens hope. When I pause to be grateful for past mercies, I am better able to look forward in hope. No matter how deep the sorrows of the past, God has used them for good. Thankfulness helps me remember and set my eyes on His promises for the future. 

Thankfulness strengthens me. When I am thankful, I have more energy and am in a better, more cheerful mood. I feel stronger, more able to deal with whatever is before me. Others would rather be around me when my attitude is positive and cheerful and at its best because of a thankful heart. 

I’m amazed at (and thankful for) God’s timing with this dream and this devotional. After reading DeMoss’ book, I prayed that He would help me be more thankful with the tough stuff. Since thankfulness is “is the will of God in Christ Jesus” for me, I should not be surprised how quickly He is to oblige.

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