My real examination of this topic began with reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp (one of the best reads of my life). The book centers around the word and action: eucharisteo - basically the giving of thanks. The author begins to pursue greater joy by recording 1000 things for which she's thankful. She considers the small things of life - curtains blowing in a breeze - a bubble from the sink . . . and learns to have a greater joy in the Lord by this simple act: eucharisteo. She also experiences greater intimacy.
Oh how she challenged me! When I began the book I was beginning my own walk through a valley. Sometimes I felt so fearful and other times so sad. I kept looking up, but saw no end to this lonely place. It wasn't all doom and gloom to be sure, but some days it felt that way. I'm speaking as though it's all behind me, but it isn't. Some days I'm still aware that I'm in the valley. However, in a parallel to the book, God began speaking to me. He reminded me that we are to give thanks in all things - ALL - and by prayer and supplication, with THANKSGIVING, make our requests known to God. (Phil 4) And do you know what the Bible says happens next, the result of our thanksgiving? It says that we gain the peace that passes all understanding.
Now I don't know about you, but when I am in a valley, one of the things that really gnaws at me is fear - fear that this thing won't end, fear that something worse is going to get me.
Side story: When we lived in Germany, we lived in a valley. I could leave my little village by a road at the back of it and walk right into the woods and right through that valley. It was peaceful and quiet, with meadows and a stream, sheep, donkeys, falcons on the hunt, blackberries to pick - beautiful. However, there were wood all around and here and there the path ran through a thicket that was dark with trees towering over me. The first few times I walked through there, I was plain old skeered. I didn't know what lurked in there and I turned around and went home, heart beating faster. NOW - each time I walked that path, I got a little braver and went further. Finally, I walked all the way through the thicket and truth be told, there was so much more to enjoy on the other side. It was better than just turning around and missing it.
You can probably see where this is headed. Valleys are intense and can be dark. They can be long. But, if we stop and look around, there is beauty there. This is what I'm learning. There's more, but this is it's own teaching. When things were looking dark and dreary and I felt afraid, I began to hear God's voice reminding me to give thanks, then I'd sit and read 1000 Gifts and see it in action before my very eyes and I started practicing it myself. "Lord, thank you for this beautiful lake view, sunset, my husband, having my kids home, time to think, ..." Over and over, God corrected my negative thinking with something to be thankful for in the midst of my valley.
Let's go back to Germany for a moment. Every now and then I'd decide I was bored in my valley. I'd think about hiking to one of the higher points around me. There was a windmill up on one of the points and farm fields. It looked enticing. I'd find a path and start the walk. Do you know that's when it got hard? Walking in the valley was a breeze, flat and easy, piece of cake. Walking up the mountain, not so much. I was really in the woods, couldn't see much, just had to put one foot in front of the other. Not only that, it was exhausting. The climb was hard. The path wasn't well traveled (unlike the valley path) and it was fairly dark. But do you know why I did it? To get to the top. To have the view. To get the big honkin' blackberries. Totally worth the trip.
This moment, as I write, I'm asking myself a question: Am I in a valley or on my way to a mountaintop? All I can say is, "wow". Wow.
Here are some things I've come across in the past few months that might be valuable in your own walk. They've certainly been valuable to me.
- Our hard times are not God punishing us for sin. The payment for sin is death. (Could be consequences or discipline, but it's not punishment)
- We must learn to give thanks not only IN all things, but FOR all things for Romans 8:28 teaches that God works ALL things for good...
- Ann Voskamp "That which I refuse to thank Christ for -- I refuse to believe Christ can redeem?"
- Thinking I must not resist the pruning that might bring new, stronger growth.
- Job 2:10 "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" God just keeps teaching me!
- Why give thanks in moments of/for despair? It is then we are most likely to fix our eyes on Christ.
- I must not resist the pruning that might bring new, stronger growth.
- "Jesus has a time, He has a plan, He is on schedule... God is on the case!" Louie Giglio
- God is still God and by the way, He doesn't owe us an explanation. That last part is from Andy Stanley.
- Wouldn't you walk a treacherous path to see the glory and majest of God? To know Him more?
You can find me on Twitter. @steph_redmond