There are seasons in our lives when trials come to each one of us. Some trials seem to linger far longer than we wish. Sometimes for years. People of faith turn to God, but our prayers usually begin with a request to please take us out of the trial. Sometimes He does. Sometimes we stay in the midst of it. God knows why.
I’m in such a season. The details aren’t important for blog readers to know. Suffice to say that, like the widow pounding on the judge’s door, I’ve made my requests known to God and I’m ready for this season to be done with. But praise and thanksgiving rose up in me this morning as I was in prayer. Jesus is so worthy of my sacrifice of praise. And His goodness to me is so worthy of my sacrifice of thanksgiving. No matter what happens to me on this earth, He is worthy of my love, not for what He has done for me but because of who He is.
And then I opened my emails and found that in my daily subscriptions I had one on praise and one on thanksgiving. Oh, how I love it when God does something like this, soft whispers in my heart, gentle confirmations that He cares about the smallest of details, loving reminders that I’m in the right place.
In WHY PRAISE?, John Fischer writes:
I’ve been wondering lately if we might be getting somewhat presumptuous in our approach to the praise and worship of God. I’ve caught myself several times praising God and thinking I must be doing Him a favor by blessing Him, as if I made His day or something. It’s easy to start thinking that the better or more often our praise, the more blessed God must be.
And then I read about the mountains and the hills breaking forth into singing and all of the trees of the fields clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12). And I reflect in Psalms about the heavens telling the glory of God and the earth showing forth His handiwork — about day to day pouring forth speech and night to night revealing knowledge (Psalm 19:1-4); and I remember how the children naturally praised the Son of God as He entered Jerusalem, and how Jesus said that if they were somehow hindered, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40)… that’s when I conclude that for us not to praise Him would be the ultimate arrogance.
In WHEN GRATITUDE GETS RADICAL, Charles Colson writes:
The notion of gratitude is hot these days. Search the Internet, and you’ll find more than a million sites about thankfulness.
For example, university psychologists recently conducted a research project on gratitude and thanksgiving. They divided participants into three groups. People in the first group practiced daily exercises like writing in a gratitude journal. They reported higher levels of alertness, determination, optimism, energy, and less depression and stress than the control group. Unsurprisingly, they were also a lot happier than the participants who were told to keep an account of all the bad things that happened each day.
One of the psychologists concluded that though a practice of gratitude is a key to most religions, its benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or no faith. He suggested that anyone can increase his sense of well-being just from counting his blessings.
As my colleague Ellen Vaughn writes in her new book, Radical Gratitude, no one is going to disagree that gratitude is a virtue. But, Ellen says, counting our blessings and conjuring an attitude of to-whom-it-may-concern gratitude, Pollyanna-style is not enough.
What do we do when cancer strikes—I have two children battling it right now—or when loved ones die, when we find ourselves in the midst of brokenness and real suffering? That, she says, is where gratitude gets radical.
How much He cares for His children. How greatly He cares about each detail of our lives. I may never understand the reasons for the season of trial, beyond that He allows it to enter my life as a method of refining me, helping me to grow more Christ-like during my time on earth. But I can rest in the assurance of His love, and I am thankful for the many ways He speaks that love into my heart.
In the grip of His grace,