ANXIOUS! UNEASE! VIGILANT! ON STANDBY! TRUSTING! ADAPTING!. These are all terms that might express your status as we end week six of sheltering in place. Perhaps you are a mixture of these or you fluctuate from one state to the next. Some days we may experience a sense of adaptation and making the most of the situation, while other days we may be struggling to think straight.
In week 5 I had some ups and downs as I tried moving forward. I found myself on edge asking my husband questions like, “Well, what did you mean by that?” Or “Why are you doing that?” I am not sure what I felt, maybe at best I felt a pervasive unease which seemed to have no source. A spirit of restlessness and unease began to slowly and subtly wear away at peace and joy.
As a believer in God, when I am off center, I know I need to take time out and refocus through reading the word of God and prayer. Being still with God not only renews my spirit but it also resets my mind. (Ps. 46:10 – Be still! and know that I am God…)
So I began my time of “stillness” with reading about prayer and communicating to God about this sense of unease or generic discontent that I was feeling. As I read, an interesting pattern emerged, that is: prayer was often mentioned in association with thanksgiving.
The Bond of Thanksgiving and Prayer
Let’s look at a few of these passages.
- Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- 1 Timothy 2:1
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men
- Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always;pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 1:15-16
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
- Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.
(The expression “enter his gates” and “enter his courts” refers to the Israelites coming into the temple which was the central place where they met with God, where they communed with God in songs and in prayer. The expressions “enter His gates and come into His courts” are in a sense, signifying coming into the presence of God. We commune with God through prayer and meditation. According to this verse then, we should always enter our time with God; enter His presence in prayer with thanksgiving.).
The more I read the clearer the bond between prayer and thanksgiving became. I conclude: thanksgiving is an essential element in my relationship with God. It is the defining characteristic demonstrating trust in my Father and dependence on him.
A Key to Entering the Presence of God
In the Old Testament scriptures, we read that giving thanks and praise to God was akin to offering a sacrifice to God. The giving of thanks to God was an integral part of worshiping God, honoring God and being in relationship with God.
- Psalm 116:17
I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
- Psalm 107:22
Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare His works with rejoicing.
- Psalm 54:6
Freely I will sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.
As I read these passages my heart felt lighter. God redirected my mind. I focused on the things of light and goodness in my life. I had been looking at what I couldn’t do; at how I felt restricted; at the difficulty of being still, and perhaps the reality of what God was showing me about myself.
TRANSFORMATIONS of THANKSGIVING
I began deliberately choosing to thank God for everything. That is when I noticed a change, a light-heartedness, a more genuine faith and joy.
When I express thanks to God regularly throughout my day it changes my focus from “me” to God and others.
Thanksgiving and Perspective
Giving thanks to God transforms my perspective. Instead of looking at restrictions, I see abundance and new space.
In Psalm 18:19, David proclaims the blessing of God broadening his view after God delivers him from his enemy.
- “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Ps. 18:19.”
Like David, if we focus on thanking God and seeing his blessing we will feel we are in a safe, spacious place.
Thanksgiving and Mood
Focusing on giving thanks to God changes my perspective which results in changing my mood. The act of thanking and praising God lifts up my spirit and fills me with joy because I am focusing on the wonderful deeds of God.
David expresses this process and truth. Focusing on God and trusting in Him yields joy.
- “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Ps. 28:7-8
Thanksgiving and Relationships
Another blessing from giving thanks to God is realized in our relationships. When I began choosing to thank God, it was like I had a new way of seeing. I began seeing characteristics of God in my interactions with and thoughts of people.
In Colossians 3:12-13, we are reminded that because of the great salvation worked for us by God, we, out of thanks and awe to God, turn and bless others by deliberately putting on compassion, and forgiveness.
- “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:12-13
Feel It or Not – Give Thanks!
Giving thanks to God is an act of the will. Yes, there are times of great emotional response, an out pouring of thanks to God. Yet remember, “thanksgiving” requires loving God with our mind as well as heart and soul. It means I deliberately think of God and His goodness; His wondrous deeds; and His faithful love. Choose to thank God every day! Thank God for 7 things every day and record the transformations you see in your perspective, mood and relationships.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness.