It’s that time of year…our hearts are open and we are more prone to “give thanks” than in any other season.
For those of faith, gratitude is a component of our religious traditions and should be a part of the worshippers daily life. In Judiaism prayers offering thanks begin in the morning with the Shema and end in the evening with the ‘Alenu, thanking God for who he is and his sovereign plan. In Christianity, God is known to be the giver of every good and perfect gift and so by faith we receive his blessings and give him praise.
BUT, when the stresses and strains of daily life overwhelm us, gratitude is a hard thing to come by. When we find ourselves in the midst of severe challenges most of us can’t, don’t, or won’t respond like Job, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Some of us may get there eventually, but there are few Horatio Spafford’s in the sea of humanity.
In October 1871, the Great Chicago Fire brought the city of Chicago to ashes along with the financial state of one prominent lawyer, Horatio Spafford. Desiring a respite for his devastated family, he sent his wife and four young children on a ship for a holiday in Europe, where he would join them later. His family’s ship would never make it to Europe. While crossing the Atlantic the steam ship was struck by a passing iron vessel and 226 passengers lost their lives, including his eleven-year-old, nine- year-old, five-year-old, and two-year-old. Only his wife survived, sending him a telegram from England with the simple words, “Saved alone.” Horatio Spafford took the journey across the Atlantic to meet his wife in England. It was on this journey—over the same waters that drowned and swallowed his four precious children—that he penned the original lyrics to “It is Well with My Soul” Lyrics
No matter our lot, I do believe a key to abundant living is found in practicing thankfulness. When I was just twenty-two and working through the first year after I broke my neck God spoke a very clear directive into my spirit, “A key in your recovery is learning that the highest form of prayer is praise.”
What did that actually mean? After much pondering, processing and more prayer, what the Spirit revealed to me was that I needed to learn how to pray differently. Instead of praying prayers that were worrisome, anxious and fearful, begging or telling God what to do, I was to pray prayers in faith with thanksgiving. These prayers look and sound different.
When I need to lay it all out before God, he gets an earful and that earful is rarely holy (well I guess that depends on our definition of what is holy and what is not). I definitely emote, the good, the bad and the ugly, but then I move into praise. And in my latter years, through further teaching, I’ve learned to incorporate blessing.
Let me use a fictitious name but give an example that we all can relate to. (We are embroiled in a painful interpersonal conflict with someone in our life, whom we love)
Holy Spirit, I come before you and lift up this painful relationship I find myself in with Mary. You are the Potter; we are the clay; broken, chipped and imperfect vessels so in need of your love. I thank you that you are working on/in both of us — to be a brighter reflection of your light and glory.
I praise you Oh God, that you, and you alone, can transform any heart, any mind; so start with me. Purify and cleanse me of my negative thoughts and vindictive words that just want to overflow and spew out of my mouth. How I need you. I get really PO’d that she never apologizes. Why do I have to be the one to build the bridge, humble myself first and seek reconciliation? Thank you that your very nature is committed to restoring and redeeming relationships. Help me to love her and see her worth through your eyes.
Jesus, I pray your blessings over Mary. Bless her job, her finances, her family and friends. Bless the wounded places in her that are so in need of your touch. Bless the work of her hands; bless her mind and thoughts with your goodness. Pour over her your living water and bring an increase of your love into her life. Be the repairer of the breach for us Oh God and bring healing to our relationship. I ask in the name, which is above every other name. Amen.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6
Being thankful changes us. I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my book as a resilient response to life and one important way to turn setbacks into comebacks. Pain, Power & Promise: 19 Ways to Turn Setbacks into Comebacks
I’ll leave you with a poem, author unknown, that challenges us to give thanks rather than commiserate.
Be thankful for the clothes that fit too snug, because it means you have enough to eat.
Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party, because it means you have been surrounded by friends.
Be thankful for the taxes you pay, because it means you’re employed.
Be thankful for your heating bill, because it means you are warm.
Be thankful for the space you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you can walk.
Be thankful for the lady who sings off-key behind you in church, because it means you can hear.
Be thankful people complain about government, because it means we have freedom of speech.
Be Thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means you’re alive.
AND….Be thankful even when a winter blizzard blasts the entire nation over the Thanksgiving Holiday, because it means we are capable of adapting and finding new plans in the midst of interruption.
“Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction.Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” Lam. 3:22-23
As always, may you find a new mercy today and everyday,