I have spent the last month at Challenge House 7 pondering the “challenge of being filled with gratitude.” My pondering began when I read this little jewel of scripture: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:18 “What does circumstances really mean?” I asked myself at the breakfast table while reading my Bible. “In all circumstances means in every situation,” I thought as I spread raspberries on my oatmeal. “Seriously?” I thought. “How can we give thanks in ALL situations? For all circumstances?” My skepticism continued as I thought about a multitude of circumstances that would not naturally lead one to express gratitude. “What about when I fall off my bike and the neighborhood kids giggle at Ms. Sherry riding her bike and FALLING OFF It? And when I miss the turn onto an unfamiliar road? And when a kid is not acting nice at a Challenge House event and I need to speak to them with a soft heart? And on those days when my head hurts? And when nobody is around to talk with late at night when sleep is hard to find? AND…AND….AND” The list just kept getting LONGER!!! In fact, sadly, I realized that it is easier to catalog my GRUMPY INGRATITUDE than to record my PURE THANKFULNESS when circumstances do not go my way!!! With that humbling thought cycling through my mind, I became determined to put I Thessalonians 5:18 into practice until I filled a box with WRITINGS OF GRATITUDE. I invited the neighborhood kids to write their “thankfuls” on paper and come put them into a box at the Challenge House. We illustrated our “thankfuls to GOD” with crayons one day as we shared snacks at Challenge House 7. And I play the “GRATITUDE CHALLENGE” when I am driving. And when I am walking the Challenge House 7 neighborhood and talking to my neighborhood friends. Those friends and I have created a little “PRAY WITH GRATITUDE” prayer group. And I am beginning to notice….Together, we are beginning to look at our circumstances differently. For, we are learning that giving thanks in difficult circumstances begins with adjusting our vision. When Jesus Christ shared with his disciples the inevitable reality of his impending death, Peter responded with a reprimand: “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said, “This will never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:23a) Christ’s reply is harsh and shocking; “Get away from me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23b) As I ponder Jesus Christ’s response to Peter, I’m beginning to realize that Jesus takes seriously the lens through which we view life.
The Challenge of Gratitude
MAYBE THAT IS WHY GRATITUDE IS A COMMAND AND NOT A SUGGESTION.
Let me state that again…
MAYBE THAT IS WHY GRATITUDE FOR EVERY TRIAL, TRIBULATION, AND BLESSING IS A COMMAND AND NOT A SUGGESTION.
I do not think Peter understood his own limited vision. He simply focused on himself instead of our Precious Savior. I am learning that giving THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES is not about my offering my GOD a gift of praise. Giving THANKS is about God offering me a gift as well: a brand new heart and pair of eyes with which to view my all my circumstances. I cannot COUNT MY BLESSINGS without acknowledging GOD. GRATITUDE shifts my focus from ME to GOD MY SAVIOR. GRATITUDE MOVES MY EYES FROM THE DUST OF THIS BROKEN WORLD TO THE THRONE ROOM OF HEAVEN.And that changes ALL OF ME. DAY BY DAY….MOMENT by MOMENT…. GRATITUDE improves my life’s vision. I am so very glad the story of Peter, the Rock, did not end with Jesus’ reprimand. Even though a young Peter’s self-focus may have blinded him to the MIRACLE OF CALVARY; many years later this disciple wrote: “All praise to GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by HIS great mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with GREAT expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance- an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay….so be truly glad….” (I Peter 1:3-6)
To me…..That sounds like a disciple who learned to give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES…A disciple that traded his old heart lens for a new lens of GRATITUDE. THANKFULNESS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES IS THE VERY INROADS TO GOD. WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO CHANGE THE WAY OUR LIVES LOOK; BUT GRATITUDE ALWAYS CHANGES THE WAY WE LOOK AT OUR LIVES!!!! GRATITUDE CHANGES OUR PERSONAL STORIES, ONE SMALL PRAISE AT A TIME!!