Thanksgiving always reminds us to stop and express our gratitude for our many blessings; but if we only do so once a year, we’re reeeaaallllyy selling ourselves short. I’ve been reflecting on two messages that were preached over the last few weeks, both of which have really transformed my perspective on the way I view my everyday circumstances (for better or worse).
A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, Bishop Libby preached, “Are you seeking, or are you sinking?” He talked about how life is just… life. It has a way of wearing us down and can pull us under if we’re not careful. But if we set our eyes on Jesus, seeking Him diligently, we’ll be able to transcend our circumstances and hurdle all the obstacles the enemy throws our way in attempt to derail us from our pursuit of Christ.
The second was Pastor Sean’s message, “Don’t Forget to Thank Him.” He uncovered the nuances of the popular story of the 10 lepers to illustrate in a way I’d never heard before. The crux of the message was this: a thankful attitude will be the difference between us being healed–God stopping the progression of any adverse situations in our lives–and us being made whole–the reversal and restoration of whatever negative toll life has taken on us. While the nine lepers were healed, it was only the one who returned to Jesus to say thank you that the Bible says was made whole. Wow!
So here are the 2 keys to beating what’s weighing you down… and how I learned them.
1. Remember you have the power to choose your response.
Just a couple days after Pastor Sean preached, I was in my car headed to a meeting about an hour and a half away. I’ve always found the car to be the place I can connect with God best (side note: here’s how to find your best place for prayer!), this morning I decided to be intentional about using my commute time for just that. As I began talking to God, reflecting on Pastor Sean’s message and calling out the things I was thankful for in that moment: the fact that He woke me up and I miraculously got out the house when my alarm failed me; the fact that traffic was actually moving (have you been in DMV rush hour traffic?!? It’s diabolical.); the fact that it was a beautiful, sunny fall day and I got to be out in the world soaking in the gorgeous masterpiece that is God’s creation… the list goes on.
It was in recognizing that I very easily could have been having a super stressed, anxious morning for really all the same reasons. My alarm didn’t go off (or if it did, I didn’t hear it! #teething) and I had to bolt out the door sans breakfast to leave anywhere close to on time. I had to drive basically to the opposite side of the state through what is consistently ranked one of the worst traffic areas in the country… all for God only knows what would actually come out of this meeting, if anything at all.
Having the clarity to see both sides and see how responding either way would’ve been justifiable is not something I have in every moment, but something I truly valued in that moment. I was aware enough to choose to be thankful, and I realize now that it takes a whole lot of intentionality to actually slow down to do that in our everyday moments. Transition and transformation depend on our ability to transcend. Taking the time to rise above it all to get the 10,000 foot view of our situation allows us to choose our best, most purposeful response. It’s in doing so that we are able to see God’s hand at work, even in the crummiest of circumstances, and remember to give Him thanks.
Thanks that there is some silver lining. Thanks that it didn’t go as wrong as it could’ve. Thanks that there are other things going right in our lives. Thanks that He is God and we can rest assured that He sees us, He loves us, and He is piecing together every single aspect of our lives to give us His very best, if we’ll let Him.
And that’s where, I realized, these two messages converge. Which brings me to key #2…
2. Always seek out God’s signature on your situation.
I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t “do things to us” but rather He uses the things life brings us to refine, grow and strengthen us. If we look back on even the most devastating circumstances we’ve ever faced, I’m positive each and every one of us would be able to point to something, even the smallest detail, and say God was there. From a perfectly timed word of encouragement from the most unlikely source, or an unexpected blessing, to a true friend or loved one who was there to navigate life’s tough times with us, God always, always shows up. When we intentionally look for Him, we’ll see that He really is there. Because you know what? The truth is we’ll always find what we’re looking for. So why not look for Jesus?
In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (NLT) I count it no coincidence that He says this just 2 verses after He reassures us of His wonderful plans for our lives. The whole thing is powerful, really:
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” – Jeremiah 29:10-14, NLT
Like He did for the children of Israel, God is letting us know that there will be some tough times ahead, but He promises to restore us – make us whole again – and fulfill His every promise to us. He doesn’t want us to forget Him when those tough times come but to remember Him and look for Him in the midst of our struggles. He reminds us that He does have a plan for our lives- a good and hopeful one. And He assures us that He hears us, and He is always available to us.
When we seek out those things for which to thank God, we will always remain above our circumstances – no matter how bad the world would say they are. We cannot sink into the misery of life if we are always seeking out God’s signature on our situation in order to thank Him. –> Tweet that.
So be encouraged, friend. God’s got you! He always has, and He always will. Life can only be as miserable as we allow it to be, so choose to look for God in your situation and thank Him for all the ways He keeps on showing up for you. Perspective is prescriptive, so choose yours with purpose!
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