Content in Everything: Choose Gratitude.

I shared this on my Instagram story the other day, but wanted to expand on what might be helpful for those who feel a little weary, who are tired of not knowing what lies ahead and live in the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring, who feel like you’re slightly losing your mind by balancing work and play with the kids, or for the single people living on your own who are tired of talking to your walls during the day.

“So, it’s been a month since I’ve seen anyone I know in person. It may not be ideal. I miss my family & friends, but really, there is still so much to be thankful for. Throughout my life when I’ve faced various trials that included a lot of uncertainty, my anchor was to choose gratitude. So, it’s been my piece of advice to those who are feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Make a gratitude list. We all have something to be thankful for. My prayer is that we would be like Paul when he wrote from a Roman prison cell in Philippians 4, “for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Wow. No matter what our circumstances look like, today, we can discover joy in Christ.”

Since apparently I can’t write a blogpost without including a C.S. Lewis quote, here’s another one for you. In his book, The Problem of Pain (highly recommend by the way), Lewis shares, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Right now, we’ve lost a lot of things. We’ve had trips, special events, parties, celebrations, the list goes on, all cancelled before our eyes. And, while we’ve lost a lot of things, there is something that we can still cling to, when everything else has been taken from our hands. God’s love, the most certain thing and the only true promise that we have of never losing, is the only thing that will give the human heart what it longs for. When everything else is stripped away, what are you holding onto? The beautiful truth is that we don’t have to search for it. We don’t have to fight for it, this gift, that is. When we sit with Jesus, we discover perfect peace, eternal hope, and his deep and abiding love for us.

I’m sharing my heart here, because it was when I was walking through the scariest and most frightening chapter of my life, that I discovered this truth. When I was going through great uncertainty, I remember waking up each morning with a choice before me and some mornings, more reluctantly than others, I chose to start off every single morning thanking God for another day.  There were days where it would have been easier to become a victim to my circumstances, but instead, I chose to fixate my eyes on God, on the One who holds all things together, even when everything felt as though it was breaking underneath me. We were not born with this eternal perspective in mind. Our natural tendency is to bury ourselves underneath the weight of our circumstances and choose fear, anger, etc. We learn how to have a posture of gratitude and joy through hardship, through pain. Just as it is written in James 1:2-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” As an endurance runner, one of the things that I quickly learned is that you will not make it very far if you become so focused on when and where the finish line is, instead of just taking it one step at a time.  One step, one moment, one piece of gratitude at a time.

This week, as I was reading through the book of Philippians, I was so convicted by Paul’s words. “For I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” He wrote those words from a prison cell, a Roman prison cell, a dirty and dark place where his life was on the line. He didn’t know when he would see the daylight again, he didn’t know what was to come next, but rather than wish for his circumstances to look different and gripe about God not rescuing him from where he sat, he shared a few words later, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” On our own, you and I are not enough. That is why, when our expectations for life are unmet, we falter. Yet, in Christ’s strength, we discover that we are being held upright and can continue forward, one day at a time. By leaning on His strength, by learning to trust in His knowledge instead of trying to take matters into our own hands and try to control the situation before us, we can find rest for our souls.

While this time looks differently for everyone, and I don’t know what the weight of your own circumstances may look like, I hope that you may know you are not alone. Just as Scriptures remind us over and over again, “Do not be afraid. You need only to be still. For the Lord goes before you. He fights on your behalf.” You don’t have to fight the feelings you are experiencing right now, whether anxiety, fear, restlessness, doubt, lack of hope, on your own. God is fighting for you. God is with you, always.
And, while God’s love gives us joy+contentment, no matter where we find ourselves today, there are also so many other blessings that God has gifted us that we can choose to thank Him for. I was watching one of my favourite movies this week, About Time, and I mainly put it on because I love the overall message of the movie. Every time, I watch it, it’s a reminder that each day is a gift. Without giving away any spoilers, the main character, Tim, makes this statement about life (let’s just give a shout-out to the screenwriter behind this quote), “I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one, to enjoy it, as if it was the final full day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” And, it’s during these difficult times, that I have seen so many families and people around the globe doing just that. If you don’t follow @goodnews_movement on Instagram or haven’t been watching Some Good News by John Krasinksi, what have you been doing? Turn off the ever-changing news stories and tune into the good news stories that are highlighting the love of humanity and the beauty of our ordinary, extraordinary life.

As I said, make a gratitude list during this time. I hope this might be helpful, as it’s proved to be really helpful for me, when I become overwhelmed.
Here’s a few examples from my list.
Day 1: A safe place to stay, a roof over my head. I literally tear up, being able to be in a safe environment during this time.
Day 2: Beautiful music. So thankful that I can close my eyes and get lost in the music. Whether it’s jazz music while I cook, folk music while I walk outside, classical music to bring calm to my work day, or worship music in my living room, what a gift to have access to the creative talents of so many.
Day 3: Freshly brewed tea or coffee every morning! What a luxury…to walk into the kitchen and have a freshly brewed cup of goodness within minutes!
Day 4:  Access to clean water. I don’t have to travel very far for clean water. What a privilege.
Day 5: My two legs. I get to go on long walks in the morning and runs in the evening. I am so grateful that I have the freedom to move.
Day 6: A peaceful neighborhood to walk through.
Day 7: The birds chirping outside. Living in a big city, it’s so nice to hear the birds+be reminded that as much as God takes care of the sparrow, He takes care of you+me and our daily needs.

Okay, this list could go on forever. I’ve been doing this since quarantine started, and my list is pretty long. It’s crazy how much gratitude can bring hope+healing into your life. And, while there are things in my life that I wished looked differently, it does me no good to focus/worry about the things that I wish were different/could be changed. Instead, I can cast aside those things at the feet of Jesus, and when I give over those cares to Him, I can focus on Him, instead. When we fixate our eyes on Him, instead of our worries, we are able to appreciate the gift of our extraordinary, ordinary lives, even if right now life is so far from ordinary. Despite the unknown, despite the uncertainty, despite the difficulties, right now, we can still experience God’s unfailing love and joy. That is my prayer for you and I today.

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