In Everything Give Thanks...or Don't!?

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."-1 Thessalonians 5:18

It was some years back and those words from St. Paul kept running through my head as I mentally tried to run away from them.

Driving, My hands gripped the steering wheel tighter as I mentally recalled the day. Today, no, the last 6 months had been horrible. One devastatingly sad thing after another had happened and my heart felt as though it was suffocating.

"Breathe Maria, just breathe...." I whispered to myself as my tears started to come out in torrents as powerful as the rain that was was pouring down on my windshield, both, making it difficult to see.

Everything bad that had happened seemed to be heightened and as I thought of it all, more memories of other incidences kept coming up.

Our minds are a funny thing, when we focus on something, whatever it is; good or bad, that thing starts to become bigger, similar memories start to come to mind and before you know it, a picture is painted of a life that looks more unbalanced than it actually has been.

In my case, in this moment, my life looked dark, black, cold, unhappy and felt as though it had always been like that and would always remain that way.

"Maria, thank me for this."

I heard Jesus say, so plainly in my heart. True to form, I had to put in a "but" with the Lord...

"But Jesus, I hate this....I hate this so much...I can't thank you for this!"

"Maria, thank me!"

"Jesus, there is nothing to be thankful for!!"

My tears started flowing more abundantly.

"Maria, thank me!"

"Lord! I CAN'T thank you!!

I was so angry..."Jesus! What do I have to thank you for?!!"

As the moments went on, I thought of more things I was upset about, including this stupid rain...(which we needed so desperately that year) the dark stormy clouds in the sky seemed to be the perfect backdrop to the storm going on in my mind and heart.

But The Lord, ever so tender with His angry, hurting, broken little child...replied:

"Maria, thank me for the rain..."

"Thank you for the rain....?! You've got to be kidding..."

I would like to say I was docile and did what He said when He said it and trusted Him without arguing or demanding an explanation, but as much as I try, my internal stubborn, fightin' little lady heart has a long way to go on the holiness train. It's that stark, humbling reminder that really it's all about God's grace in our lives and without that, we can do nothing.

This dialogue with the Lord went on for some time as He and I went back and forth; Him telling me what to start thanking Him for and me giving Him every excuse in the book of why I can't.

Finally, like what always happens between He and I...He wins. He always does. He always will and He always should! I'm so glad! Because His ways are so much better than mine, even though I perpetually seem to think I know best. 🙄

So, I started thanking Him; turning my eyes, my mind, my heart, to the good...

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Phil 4:8

"Jesus, thank you for the rain..."

I looked around and my driving slowed as I turned onto a back country road in Ky...

"Jesus, thank you for the flowers...thank you for the green grass....thank you that I have a roof over my head...thank you for my family...thank you for my friends...thank you for my car..."

And as I started saying these things out loud, at first, rather begrudgingly, I felt my heart starting to change, to lighten. The darkness that was all I could see and feel just moments before seemed to lessen and lift. The more I thought about and focused on the good, the beautiful, the more things that kept popping in my mind to be grateful for.

And then He asked me to thank Him for those painful situations.

Oh...this one was a little harder. But so far, doing what He asked me to do had been having a positive taking a deep breath, I pulled over to the side of the road.

"Ok, Jesus thank you...." And I mentioned every sad, devastating thing that had and was breaking my heart...

And as I did that, the wings on my heart seemed to start to take flight again, the tears came to a halt and I felt a gratefulness in my heart I had never experienced. It didn't change what was going on, it didn't lessen the reality of the situation, but my ability to be ok in the midst of it, to hand it over to Jesus and trust HIM to handle it increased.

"Lord, what just happened?!"

And then He explained.

"Love, when you focus on the negative, the sadness, the tragic, that becomes all you can see. You have taken your eyes off my goodness and my plan for you and your life and that my plan is GOOD... Praising and thanking me for EVERY situation in your life, even the hard ones, expresses a trust and faith in Me and my Providence that out of EVERYTHING in your life I WILL bring about a great good. If something better isn't going to happen, I don't allow the bad stuff t0 happen. Bad is only allowed if I'm going to bring about a greater good."

Mmm...I remembered reading a book years ago talking about that. How the evil one wants us to focus on the bad things in our lives, because then it's true, we take our eyes off of Him. But when we praise and thank God for EVERYTHING, even the hard, the difficult, the painful, it breaks the Devils hold on us because we have allowed Jesus to come into the nooks and crannies of our lives and bring light and truth to it all.

He works ALL things for our good. Always.

This holiday season, I don't know what you're going through. Maybe you're alone this year. Maybe a lot of really painful things have happened. Maybe you're in that same place I was and seeing so many dark things and you just want it all to stop!

I want to encourage you to join us ladies of His Own in praising and thanking Him...for ALL of it. It can be really hard to do so, especially at first. But I've learned the more you do it, the easier it gets. Now when hard things happen, usually with tears streaming down my face, my first response is, "I praise you Jesus...Thank You Jesus...I trust you Jesus....I love you Jesus. I know you're bringing about a great good not in spite of this, but THROUGH this...Jesus I trust in you!"

Try it. Feel your heart lighten. You'll begin to see more good, more beauty and your relationship with the Lord will deepen and grow stronger.

He is a good Father and has a good plan for your life!

Oh! And at the end of that whole dialogue with the Lord, as I sat pulled over on the side of the road with my heart lighter, a big beautiful rainbow showed itself in the sky...The Father has a funny sense of humor; He seems to enjoy having His handy work echo our hearts at times...

Have a Happy, Holy and Blessed Thanksgiving!!!

Be His,