Updated: Sep 23, 2022
The last 2 years have been challenging and interesting, to put it mildly.
I’m one of those people who seeks God for a “word” for the year. In late 2019 as I sought God for that very thing what I heard was not one, but two words: Grateful Vision.
In 2020 what I received was the word: Joy.
Little did I understand that those three words combined would be a compass to a lesson and path God would lead me down as well as allowing me to experience (once again) the pains when I think my way is better.
I am a perfectionist, but I’m just horrible at it (I borrowed that phrase from a good friend). Admittedly, that stung a bit when I realized how accurately that describes me.
#1 - We often see things as we are, not as they actually are.
The tendency for many of us is to see what's happening around us through the filter of our current circumstances. In other words, if our situation is troublesome, difficult and very painful, we tend to see the world around us through that lens.
This can send us in a downward spiral and we find ourselves (not everyone I understand) headed into depression-like mindsets. Even those who are typically glass-half-full folks over time slide towards the half-empty viewpoint.
This can be especially true for those in the midst of recovery and a grieving process. And, the holiday seasons can add to this.
In 2020 and into the first half of 2021, the two words, Grateful Vision, quickly vanished from my daily thinking and I found myself battling my old nemesis depression and anxiety.
It was mid 2021 before God opened my eyes, ears and heart to some cherished wounds, fears and anxiety that I’d been harboring in the deep corners of my soul. That’s where this lesson came to light and the journey out began.
Our Response: 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
#2 - Gratefulness is an antidote for Fear and Anxiety
Choosing gratefulness and thankfulness as a focus of our thoughts and daily actions will begin to displace fear and anxiety (anger also by the way) from our hearts. This does not happen by osmosis or accident.
Make a list of items to be grateful for and place them where you can see them every day. Not only read that list but speak the words out loud a couple of times every day. There’s a powerful transaction and impact on our minds as we hear ourselves speak truth over our own lives.
Seeing gratefulness as part of a daily worship practice is a helpful mindset.
Our Response: The Apostle Paul exhorts us to think this way as he wrote to us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
#3 - Gratefulness Lets Joy Back In
Have you ever felt like the joy in life has just left the building?
That’s what happens when fear, worry and anxiety have the throne of our hearts and souls. It can feel like darkness or heaviness is constantly sitting within us.
It can become exhausting and a drain on our energy and resources. Thinking becomes foggy or a struggle. The ability to focus for long periods of time becomes difficult. This is exactly what I experienced from mid 2020 to mid 2021. It feels like your emotional tank is almost constantly nearly bone dry or close to it.
Sleep can become disturbed or even if you sleep decently, you wake up tired still. If that connects with you in some way, I’m sure you’re not alone nor are going crazy. After all, the last 2 years kicked many of us around a bit.
This lesson on gratefulness and joy hit me in the midst of God leading me back to a wise counselor who helped me process what I was feeling. He helped me to see how my self talk had become toxic and gently re-focused me back to Jesus.
We have a real enemy that has come to, “steal, kill and destroy”. As part of his deceptive methods he relentlessly works to get our eyes off God and on ourselves. He wants to get us distracted and wrapped up in our own desires and little world.
When fear, anxiety and anger (and the like) wiggle their way into our minds, gratefulness and joy begin to be suffocated. Then, Satan can stand back and let us become our own worst enemy.
The lesson hit me hard during a week long sabbatical in September. Sitting in the woods of a retreat center I heard the thin whisper (still small voice) of the Holy Spirit. What He reminded me of was that all my worries about finances, lack of joy in my soul and having forgotten the call to “Grateful Vision” left me feeling very depleted and fearful.
I was truly living in a crippling fear of any financial calamity (imagined), health issue and feeling like I was failing as a man to provide for my wife in a way I believe she deserves.
The bad news: If I can be honest with you, I hated living this way and what made it worse was the awakening to the truth that I’d walked myself right into the valley of the shadow of death.
The good news: Psalm 23:1- 4
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Our Response: Remind ourselves that the Lord is indeed my shepherd. He may not remove us from the valley, but He is walking through the valley with us. He guides, provides and sustains us through it all. He is faithful and will do it.
This song from Josh Baldwin, Evidence continues to be a reminder of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ in my life. God uses this song yet today to guide me back to the truth of Psalm 23.