Now, I know that I’m getting some eyerolls before you even start reading. Great, you say, here’s another person telling me to be thankful in my terrible circumstance. Just give me a chance, though, to help illustrate what I mean. I know that many of us have situations that are downright awful, and we can’t see how God is loving us in the middle of them. That’s why focus is so important, because if we lose sight of His love, we lose hope. And without hope, there’s no way ahead.
I realize this is a bold statement, but every day I talk to people who are dealing with hard things, and I haven’t met one who doesn’t have some reason to be thankful and recognize God’s love in their lives.
Yes, it’s a challenge some days, but I think so often we put effort into anxiety for the future or regret over the past, and we miss the power of praising God in the present. I love what Ann Voskamp says: “No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changes the future, and any amount of gratitude changes the present. Any amount of gratitude changes the present and wins back some ground—even for one very small thing.”
When we choose to focus on praising God in the middle of our mess, we are free. Free to see past the thing trying to distract us and steal all our focus. Free to see a future and a hope where maybe others might not see. Free to pursue a relationship with Jesus and know Him in a deeper way no matter the surroundings. Free to walk in a way that the situation doesn’t define us.
Now, I am not saying we don’t feel the emotions surrounding our problems! We are not robots, and I love the direction David (the biggest feeler ever in Scripture) leads us—we give God all our feelings whether it be anger, sadness, despair, hopelessness. And then, we follow it up with a refocus on who He is and how we can praise Him, even if it’s just a little bit. I think often we expect people to just run through the pain of their situation without feeling it, and that isn’t fair and it’s not the way God created us. But we do have the possibility of working through the pain and coming out the other side with a focus on our loving Father who is holding our hand through it all.
So, what can you be thankful for in the middle of any mess? How about for the Father’s love for you that never fails, never is impatient and never gives up? I know the situation doesn’t always seem like love, but He never leaves you in it alone and He feels the whole thing with you. Right now where you sit, no matter how unproductive or downright stupid you’ve been today, He loves you. I don’t think you an really sit in that love and ponder it without starting to feel gratitude for the One who never, ever gives up on you.
Another one is that He has chosen to live life within you, and give you everything you need for each day. It may not be exactly what you wanted, but it will be enough. If you don’t have the strength to be grateful, ask Him for it. He abides in us, and we in Him, and it will come spilling out all over because He is willing to bring all of it. Not one thing do we need to generate for Him—His Life brings it all. He may not bring change to your circumstance as quickly as you’d like, but He will provide victory in each part of it every day as you look to Him for it. Just ask.
A place of gratitude for me that is really important these days is a hope for the future. Yes, heaven for sure, but also hope in this present situation. Sometimes watching the news or hearing about another disaster or evil steals my focus and makes me think that we are just a run-away train headed for disaster. But there has never been a time when God hasn’t been calling people to Himself, through whatever mess humanity can create. When I remember that, my hope is restored and I can rise above the fray to look in Jesus’ eyes and move forward in that hope.
Of course, you can list people, possessions, or whatever else in this list of turning our eyes to praise, but do you see how even if you are at the bottom of the well in terms of everything else, you can still find a way to praise God and experience the freedom that comes with it? It is transformational, simply because it is changing your focus. Focus on all your problems and you just get depressed. Focus on Jesus and your problems fade in comparison to the Life you have as a current present reality. It doesn’t mean they go away, but they aren’t hijacking your entire focus anymore. Whatever we focus on gets us, so shift to gratitude by asking Jesus to provide it, and see if your day doesn’t change.
Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Re-published with the permission of Hannah Morrell at Borken & Hopeful, a ministry created for those who feel broken to fin hope in Jesus.