Life can be hard. And sometimes it feels like the straws just keep piling up until the burden of it can be quite overwhelming.
We had a tough season. The wonderful news of being pregnant again was quickly overshadowed for me by extreme nausea. “Morning sickness” is really a misnomer, as it hit me all day, and was especially worse in the evenings. Keeping to normal life became increasingly difficult and my poor husband had to pick up the pieces when I just couldn’t.
Starting late afternoon I couldn’t keep anything in, unless I laid down, which meant my husband (after a long day’s work) had to feed and bath and put our kids to bed every day. Anyone with children will know that on the best of days this time of day is not sunshine and roses… And what made matters worse, our kids went through a season of being sick themselves. Fever, flu, waking at night, not wanting to eat and general miserableness. Day after day all of this settled over our family like a dark cloud. And for a time, I just couldn’t see the light. We were in survival mode, not thinking of anything else than just making it through another day.
Now looking back on that time I can see how God intervened. We had much prayer and support from friends and many of the words that came through were in the same line: “It’s only a season”, “Look up to Him”, “Focus your attention on the life that is in you and the joy that’s before you”, “Keep praising”. I had a choice. I could keep wallowing in my misery and (honestly) self-pity…or I could be thankful and praise Him for all the blessings that I do have. Thank You that the baby is healthy. Thank you for a husband who helps and supports me. Thanks for 2 beautiful kids. Thank You that this is only a season. Thank You that Your Grace is enough.
And as I made that choice, I felt the cloud lift, my peace returning and the atmosphere in our house changing. The circumstances had not changed at that point yet, but it seemed that suddenly we had a greater capacity to deal with them. The joy that I felt when I focused on the good things, made me stronger to face the not-so-good. (Neh 8:10)
I am so encouraged by Paul’s example (who had to face far greater hardships than me – see 2 Cor 11:23-33) and his words keep me going:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil4:4)
“ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. ” (Phil 4:12-13)
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… And be thankful.” (Col 3:15)
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross” (Heb 12:1-2)
So how do we start being more thankful?
One of the best practical pieces of advice I read was from Joyce Meyer’s book: Battlefield of the Mind. She said that to gain victory in our thoughts (and let’s be honest, that is where gratitude needs to start) the best place to start is before we get up out of bed in the morning.
So how about joining me in this journey of thankfulness by starting to cultivate a habit of giving thanks? Here are my top tips:
- Before you get up in the morning, take a minute to become aware of your thoughts. Take captive all the negative ones and submit them to Jesus.
- While still in bed, take another minute and start thanking Him for all the blessings that you do have, and His grace that is sufficient for you.
- Put up reminders (I like post-it notes) to stay thankful. When you walk past one, stop and right there pray and give thanks for 3 things.
- Focus on the good. When in passing, you see a beautiful sunset, smell a lovely flower or hear joyous laughter, stop for a moment and appreciate and savour that moment with Jesus.
- Tell others. When that friend asks you: How are you? Resist the urge to start listing all your complaints and instead tell them about something good in your life. This is powerful! Remember Rev 12:11 “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
What about you? Do you have any testimonies or tips on being thankful?
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