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A Heart That CHOOSES Praise

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble…Psalm 50:14-15

It’s so hard to be thankful in ALL circumstances.

I struggle with the popular verse that says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Apostle Paul was a man who truly learned the meaning of being thankful, even during trials. He was separated from friends and those he loved most, wrongly accused, brutally treated and repeatedly flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hungry, cold, exhausted, and in constant danger. But even when in prison in Rome, he wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - Ephesians 5:19-20

I often wonder about the details of what transpired between Jesus and Paul (who was at the time still named Saul) when he was converted on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-19). It was so life altering for Paul that he literally gave up everything and willingly endured anything for Jesus, AND he was thankful while he was doing it! Amazing to me, and very sobering. I find myself ungrateful and negative when dealing with so much less than what Paul had to endure.

Thanksgiving for Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but his daily reality. It changed his life and the lives of those he interacted with, filling him with an unusual joy and a heart of gratitude.

I want unusual joy and a heart of gratitude, don’t you? A thankful heart is a peaceful heart. I long for peace in this chaotic world.

In Psalm 50:14, it says, sacrifice thank offerings to God…”

I think it’s talking here about being thankful during those times when it’s really hard to be thankful. A sacrifice is never an easy thing. The definition of sacrifice is this: an act of offering to a deity something precious.(1)

What if that “something precious” is our trust, and our thanksgiving? What if we would choose to trust God, and be thankful, even when it’s REALLY hard?

“A sacrifice of thanks lays down our perspective and raises hands in praise anyways - always. We give thanks to God not because of how we feel - but because of Who He is.” - Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience)

What if we would lay our heartaches, anxieties, and struggles at His feet? What if we chose to be thankful anyway, no matter the circumstances - no matter how bleak things look?

I believe with all my heart it would be life-changing.

This is the time of year that we write out lists of all the things we are thankful for, and I think that’s a great thing to do. But what if we focused on the hard things, not the easy things to be thankful for?

I did my “thankful list” a little differently this year. I wrote out my struggle or heartache first, and then I followed it with a “reframed” statement that I’m choosing to focus on instead.

I am choosing to focus on the precious gifts God has given me. I’m choosing a heart of gratitude. I pray you will choose the same, and be encouraged. We serve and amazing God, and He is worthy of every ounce of our thanksgiving and praise!

Below are several examples from the list I made:

Old focus: My son has autism and most days are very difficult and exhausting, leave me feeling isolated, lonely, and deeply discouraged.
New focus: God has used my son and his autism to change my character (way down in the deep places) by teaching me daily lessons about love, humility, selflessness, and servanthood.

Old focus: As parents of five small children, my husband and I rarely get any quality time alone together.
New focus: When my husband and I spend time together, it is awesome and I fall in love with him all over again. I am so blessed to have him as my husband.

Old focus: As a stay-at-home mom, I struggle with loneliness, body image, and feeling insignificant in this huge world.
New focus: I get to be a stay-at-home mom, which is something I have dreamed about for years.

Old focus: This life is hard, and very painful at times. I struggle with fear of suffering. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed a lot of times, feeling out of control and pushed along by circumstances that are out of my control.
New focus: It’s not about me; it’s always been about Him. My purpose in this life is to glorify God and bring the message of Jesus to a hurting world. God is always good, always Sovereign, and nothing can ever separate me from His love.

So what will I choose to focus on this Thanksgiving? And what about the rest of the year?

What will you choose to focus on in your life and your specific set of circumstances?

I’m not saying that life isn’t incredibly painful. It is, and we will still feel the pain. I know so many of you are experiencing terrible suffering and heartache. But I’m saying take it to Jesus, and lay it as His feet. Choose a thankful spirit, as painful and out-of-place as it will feel, and see what He will do. Only Jesus can, and I believe 100% that He will, work a miracle in your heart. It may be a new kind of peace that you have never experienced before. And peace leads to contentment, which is so rare in our country. I know in my own life I have experienced this many times, especially recently.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. - Colossians 3:15

I wanted to close with a quote regarding thankfulness from the devotional “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young. I love this devotional because she writes it from Jesus’ point of view, writing it in the first person, as if Jesus were talking to us (and she always bases it on multiple Scripture references):

“Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience - at times, blind obedience. To people who don’t know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain. Thankfulness opens your heart to my Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You many still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but is is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.”(2)

Lord, please give us new eyes and a new heart. May we refocus them both today, and transform our attitudes to one of thanksgiving. Help us to trust You with our hearts as we sacrifice thank offerings to You. Show us a miracle today, Lord. Give us peace, joy, and contentment, and gratitude - no matter our circumstances. Amen.


Sources:
(1) - Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
(2) - Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence, by Sarah Young - Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2004; pg. 343

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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