Part Three- Revive: Renew An Attitude Of Thankfulness
Today we are looking at how thankfulness can lessen our anxiety and change our hearts for the better. Let’s jump right into 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
To be honest, I struggle with this verse. Give thanks in all circumstances? This seems like an impossible thing to do. But Paul, you don’t know what I’m going through! I want to say. But if we waited until life was perfect to give thanks…we’d never give thanks. There’s something that changes on the inside when we try to be thankful. When we try to be thankful and focus on something good in a situation (however small it may be), our anxiety can lessen because we can see God’s goodness in the midst of our suffering, frustration, or worry. Renewing an attitude of thankfulness can change our mindset.
Here’s a recent example:
My toddler was seated happily on my husband’s lap in church when she knocked over the communion cup I was holding, sending grape juice all over my skirt. Near the end of the service, she let everyone know it was getting too close to nap time and she needed things to wrap up by letting out a loud shriek. So, we gathered our things and left. Now this particular church is very child friendly and this type of thing doesn’t bother them. But I still felt anxious and agitated. If I had stopped to be thankful in that moment– thankful for a relaxed church atmosphere where toddlers can be themselves, thankful for the ability to get up in the morning and go to church with my family when others cannot, thankful for a toddler who enjoys clapping along to the worship music– it would have changed my whole mindset.
Notice 1 Thess. 5:18 doesn’t say “be thankful for all circumstances,” but “give thanks in all circumstances.” What might “giving thanks in all circumstances” look like? It could be:
- Being worried about your finances and feeling like you don’t have enough, but being thankful that you have a steady job, a place to live, and food in your pantry.
- Having anxiety about your weight and never feeling pretty enough, but being thankful for your healthy body and how it gives you the ability to chase your toddler, care for your home, or go on walks with your family.
- Feeling lonely and anxious about the future because you are newly single, but being thankful for the friendships you have and the people who encourage you.
What is a situation you are anxious about right now? How can you give God thanks in the midst of it?
(Pause here if you need to and come back later!)
Let’s also examine Phillipians 4:6, one of the most well known verses about anxiety:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We’ll look more at this verse and the one after it in Part 4, but first let’s pay attention to Paul’s mention of ‘in every situation, give your requests to God with thanksgiving.’ This can be hard to do when we feel anxious. When we’re angry. When we feel wronged. But if our children only talked to us when they wanted or needed something, and never said “thank you” for anything we did for them, we would be concerned for the condition of their hearts. We’d be concerned that they were too focused on their needs and wants to stop and be grateful for a moment. When we pray for our requests with an ungrateful heart, we could end up treating God more like a genie and less like the One we have a relationship with. When we pray with thankfulness, it changes us for the better.
What is one thing you can thank God for as you present your requests to Him today?
You may be facing some very challenging circumstances in this moment and feel as if you have nothing to be thankful for. You may feel that your anxiety and circumstances are so severe and overwhelming that you literally cannot think of one thing to thank God for. You are not alone in these dark times. God is still there. Pause for a moment and think about the words of Psalm 139:16. Read it slowly, aloud:
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
God has been aware of your existence since before you were born. All your days, including the difficult ones you find yourself in, were known by God before they existed. We may not ever know why God allows difficult days and circumstances. But I find comfort in knowing that my life is not a chaotic, random mash up of events. I find comfort in knowing that God is in control even when I want to panic because of my circumstances. I can look back at certain situations that were difficult and see how God was working things together behind the scenes, good things that I never could have imagined. Reminding myself of how God worked like this in the past, along with Psalm 139:16, brings hope when I have anxiety in the present. I can be thankful for God’s past providence and sovereignty in my life on days when I do not feel thankful in general.
Closing thoughts as you finish Part Three:
Giving thanks in all circumstances and praying with thankfulness can be hard things to do. If these seem impossible for you, first pray that God would soften your heart and show you the things that you have to be thankful for. Ask Him to show you how He was still in control and still ordering your path in difficult circumstances of your past.
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All scriptures taken from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV), accessed from http://www.biblegateway.com