Tag Archives: thankful

Endure with Joy

I’ve long been inspired by the vibrant faith of believers in China’s underground church. No one is sure, but some think there may be over 60 million believers in these secret house churches. Astounding when you consider all the forces over the years that have tried to stamp out the Gospel in China!

Chinese believers are known for their steadfast and joyful faith in the face of intense persecution. A man who had just returned from visiting members of an underground church was asked how the believers were able to cope with the continued trials.

“These brothers and sisters know this is not the end of the story,” he explained.  “They EXPECT God’s glory to come at the end of their trial.  They believe the trial will end. And they expect to be victorious.”

Are you wrestling with a tough problem? Maybe it feels like your trial will never end. Perhaps we don’t suffer the same kind of intense persecution as Chinese believers, but we fight the same devil. James urges us to “resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7).

Peter also challenges us to join the “resistance:” Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8).

We can draw strength from the example of Chinese believers. They remind us that our trial “is not the end of the story.” They inspire us to “expect God’s glory.”

We strengthen our own faith when we encourage each other to stand “firm in the faith.” Joy in our journey comes as we team up with other believers.

The Christian life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.  So daily, let’s ask the Lord to help us find joy while we endure!

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 11

We’ve touched on the danger of hope-killers, those predators which attack our hopes and dreams.  Anxiety is a big one.  But there’s another, more subtle enemy of hope—complaining.  Griping is so woven into our culture that it feels like a birthright.  We complain about the weather, the food, long lines, rude workers, bad drivers, you name it.  It’s second nature to whine when we don’t have enough of this, or too much of that, or when whomever or whatever is not working out for us.  Even if we don’t say it out loud, complaining can become a habitual part of our inner dialogue. You get the point.

The Bible calls this behavior grumbling, and warns against it repeatedly:  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”(Philippians 2:14).  Some translations use the word “murmuring.”  The Greek word gongysmos, translated “grumbling,”  is defined as “a muttering, murmuring, low and suppressed discourse; the expression of secret and sullen discontent, murmuring, complaint.”  Ouch!

How does complaining hinder our dreams? Let’s take a look at the children of Israel.  They were chosen by God for a purpose. He picked a man named Moses to lead the people to a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 10:11-12).

But soon, they began to complain about hardships—the food, the fatigue, the water. Their grumbling angered God and frustrated Moses.  When the time finally came for them to take possession of the land,  Moses sent out 12 spies who returned with this negative report: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! But the people who live there are powerful.  We seemed like grasshoppers  in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them”  (Numbers 13:26-33).

Caleb and Joshua tore their clothes, pleading with the people. “We should go up and take possession of the land,” said Caleb. “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:1-9).  The Israelites became furious at Joshua and Caleb and threatened to stone them.

 So the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?  Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:20-23).

God called their grumbling contempt.  Rebellion.  In short–it was unbelief.  And it would cost that generation of the children of Israel their dream.  It’s the unbelief at the core of grumbling which blocks the very hope God wants to give us when we trust in Him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

5 Reasons to Keep on Giving Thanks

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 ESV).

 After completing the 30 Days of Thankful, I found myself drifting back into a attitude of discontent. So I renewed my resolve to give thanks in everything. To make a thankful heart a permanent habit. I’m curious. Do you experience God in a fresh way when you practice gratitude?

I think we’d agree that giving thanks to God is something we should do every day. In that respect, it’s different from the spiritual discipline of fasting. When a person comes off a fast, they gradually start eating food again.

But after an exercise like the 30 Days of Thankful, should we gradually allow ourselves become grumpy again? Of course not. The Bible teaches us that giving thanks is to be a continuous mindset—much like prayer. So it makes sense that right after the Bible teaches us “to pray without ceasing,” it reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

I’m intentional about making gratitude a permanent fixture in my mind. But to form any habit, I must first become fully persuaded of its value. And to be convinced that it pleases God.

Here are five reasons why I believe that giving thanks is worth my best effort. These are not the only reasons, but they’re a start. I’m still reflecting on what I learned while practicing gratitude:

  1. Giving thanks to God is a good way to counter-attack discontent. It’s easier to replace grumbling or complaining with thanksgiving than to simply try to “not gripe.”
  2. Gratitude feeds my faith. I discovered that thanksgiving can stand up under a fiery trial. Giving thanks seemed to use less energy than praying for a specific end—a good thing when you’re going through a hard place.
  3. Giving thanks is an effective way to roll my burdens into God’s hands, which, in turn, calms my anxious heart.
  4. Having a thankful heart makes me more aware of my surroundings and more in tune with God’s blessings. So I find myself more expectant—watching for Him to show up.
  5. For some reason, giving thanks made me more sensitive to the needs of others—opening the door to holy conversations—a blessing in themselves.

I don’t have to understand all the reasons why giving thanks is a good thing in order to experience its benefits. Forming a habit of giving thanks changes my attitude and my actions. I discovered that giving thanks is a form of worship. It connects me to the Lord and places my focus on Him. And when I focus on Jesus, it changes everything.


My Drift to Snarky

A curious thing happened the day after I completed 30 Days of Thankful.  I exhaled, let down my guard, and forgot to be thankful. I had a couple of what I can only describe as colorless days. What’s worse, I found myself being a little snarky to those I love. (Check it out. Snarky has made its away into the Oxford Dictionary).

So yesterday morning, I “hitched up my britches,” as my grandma used to say, and stepped back into my thanksgiving mode. I aligned my head and heart, once again, with the mindfulness of my previous days of practicing thankfulness.  I was intentional throughout the day to thank God—for the good stuff and the not so good stuff in my life. Straight away I noticed a change. The morning , though grey and rainy, gradually became filled with color.

I headed back to the ICU where most days are spent with my sister who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. After two weeks here, I’ve come to understand that families don’t just stroll into the trauma unit without a story.  But today was different—almost holy—as one person after another told me their stories, mostly in the elevator. A young woman’s husband had been brutally assaulted Saturday night as he walked home from work. His name is Doug. I promised her I’d pray for him as he fought for his life.

A large and loving family from a nearby small town had come to the trauma unit because their 19-year-old son had been hit by a drunk driver. I told his mom, grandmom, great uncle I would pray for the boy. And they agreed to pray for my sister…both still in a coma.

In a more lighthearted vein, I noticed some tiny answers to specific prayers. We’re heading out to our son’s college swim meet in another state.  It’s a big football weekend and I waited too late to make reservations.  So earlier this week, the rooms were all taken.  But just this afternoon, a hotel room became available. What’s more, the reservation clerk said, “M’am, I can’t figure out how, but you’ve been given an upgrade worth twice what we are charging you.”  I suddenly remembered I had thanked God for the hotel hassles this morning and put them into His hands. It was as if I could hear His voice: “Just look what happens when you are thankful and give control to Me.”

More things to be thankful for:  My compassionate husband.  A friend that brought over some wonderful soup. Another who left us an amazing chicken pie.  There has been a lifting of my mood. The appearance of fresh hope.  And so I stop. Savor. Give thanks. God has got this covered.

Bottom line: I now believe that thankful needs to become a permanent fixture in my mind. And I can tell you this. If I forget—which I’m prone to do—it’s a pretty sure bet that life will again become colorless. Or worse, I’ll return to snarky.  So I’ll remember to confess, repent, hitch up my britches, and start being thankful all over again.

30 Days of Thankful: Day 29

Thanksgiving. Its power to transform any situation is something of a mystery. When someone gives thanks in the Bible, you often find a miracle close by. Jesus gives thanks before He breaks the five loaves and two fish to feed the five thousand. He lifts his eyes to heaven before he calls the four-day-dead Lazarus to come forth from his tomb.

Yesterday, I found myself waking up, again wrestling for hope. It’s been a hard week since my younger sister’s illness and then serious head injury after a fall resulted in emergency surgery and an uncertain future. The day before, she had lost all movement, all cognition.

On the way to the hospital for another day of waiting, I didn’t feel like it, but I went back to prayer and thanksgiving 101: Philippians 4:6-7:

  • Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need,
  • and thank him for all he has done.
  • Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
  • His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I did what I know to be true—though I didn’t “feel” like it. As a former atheist, I seem to always be very pragmatic about taking God at His word.   And I know that giving thanks in all circumstances is His will. I also know He is not offended if I watch and wait to see how His word comes true.

And so I gave thanks for what He had done, and what He would do in this ongoing trial. And I watched and waited for tiny signs of hope. I truly believe that giving thanks is an act of faith. I told God I would be on the lookout for small “seeds” of His work, diligent to thank him for each ray of hope.

I pulled into the usually jam packed hospital lot and a space opened right next to the door. Walking in, the security guard at the door took special interest in greeting me unusually warmly. I walked into my sister’s room. The MRI had revealed no stroke as feared the night before.

A doctor came by and administered a new medicine. And for a few seconds, there were signs of life, and a brief recognition on my sister’s part. He said this was a good sign. A glimmer of hope.

I’m not sure why, but the day was altogether different. I sensed little blessings for which to be thankful. We’re not out of the woods yet, by any means. And we have a long road ahead.

Each day, I learn anew that it’s healing and strengthening to give thanks while I wait, and especially to praise God for the little seeds that are part of what I trust will be a larger harvest.

Giving thanks somehow fuels my faith, which then gives hope. I can’t explain why it gives peace. But God knows what He is doing, and His word tells me not to worry, to pray, and to give thanks. His peace that passes understanding does just that—it bypasses my intellect. I don’t know how airplanes fly but I continue to travel. I don’t know why giving thanks works, but I am so grateful for the peace that it gives my heart.