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Monday, February 11, 2013

Thankfulness and Stress

I've been really convicted lately about thankfulness.
 I think it started when I heard this quote: "What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

 It is so easy to go just through life, go through the motions every day things, so stuck in the routine that if someone asked you why you were doing something the only answer you would be able to give is "cause that's just what I do."  That happens to me sometimes.  Particularly when I have a lot on my plate.  I do the opposite of what I should do.  What I should do, on those days when I have so many things on my mind that I cannot possibly function, is
pause, pray, thank God for blessing me with an occupation, health and physical strength to carry it out and then ask for His help in carrying the mental and emotional weight.  That's what I should do.

But what do I generally end up doing?  Usually what I do is clam up.  Compartmentalize everything, force myself not to think, just to do.  When I get into that mode, I take things for granted.  I lose my sense of wonder and excitement.  No longer child-like with a searching mind, hungry to learn and relish everything around me, I become machine-like.

A person can only last for so long in that state of being, and after a while, I crack.  Generally this takes the form of a melt-down, but not always.  That's where I was when I was hit with this idea.  I hadn't quite had a melt-down yet, but it was imminent and mentally and emotionally I was floundering.

"What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

I read that and then I asked myself, what would I have?
And I realized, I would have next to nothing.
Breathing.  Sight.  Hearing.  My heartbeat.  The ability to walk.  These are all things that I take for granted each day.  Health.  Enough food to eat.  Clean water.  Loving family and friends on all sides of me.  These are all things that many people in this world would do anything to have.
It almost seems strange to say this, but something God has been showing me ever since I got back to school is that the best way to stop feeling overwhelmed is to take a break, to pause for a moment to praise and thank Him for everything - big and little.

When I pause to think and remember that the only thing that is keeping my heart beating is the fact that His hand is upon me giving me life, I regain my sense of wonder.

As Christians we are called to have a child-like faith.  The common interpretation of that is to have child-like dependency on God.  While I completely agree with this and do not claim to be a great Bible scholar, based on my own experience and walk with the Lord, I think that there is a little bit more to it than that.
We are to have a child-like dependency on God, who is our Father in heaven, but I think it also means that we are to maintain a child-like sense of wonder and curiosity.  If you know anything about young children, you know that they are constantly amazed and impressed by the small things we take for granted.  They stare for hours at a line of ants busy at work; they marvel at the sound of a bird or the roar of a car engine.  Children look at the world with amazement and wonder; everything is new, fresh, exciting.  The world is a giant place to be explored and discovered and every new discovery brings new delight and happiness.
 I think that's how God wants us to be as His children.  I think He wants us to find delight and amazement in those little things.  Ants working, a bird singing, a plane flying overhead.  Every single thing that exists in our world exists because of God and therefore every single thing that we see, hear, taste, feel or experience should be one more reason to praise and worship Him.

When we are stressed out or overwhelmed, we are not thanking God.  We are allowing things to obscure our vision, deceiving us and making us think that our problems are bigger than God.   When we start to thank Him for all His mercies and blessings, we begin to see that no matter how impossible our situation seems, He's got it covered and we don't need to stress.

"What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

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