I broke my favorite glass yesterday. I was rushing around, trying to get out the door and the iron fell over and bumped the glass. It shattered it into a thousand pieces. I swept up the glass and simultaneously held my dog back with my foot to keep her from stepping on the glass. In that moment, I was consumed by a flurry of negativity and frustration and started to cry. Despite having been a good day up to that point, at that moment, it felt like it was all falling apart.
Have you ever had a day like that? First one thing goes wrong, then it seems like everything else does too. Normally, I’m a pretty optimistic person and I like to find the bright side of things, but when my day starts to feels out of control, it is easy to perseverate on the negative. It’s easier to feel gratitude when things are going our way and life seems pretty smooth.
Growing up, we used to sing a song in church based on Psalm 100:4 that went “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter his courts with praise..I will rejoice for He has made me glad…” It is a song that I know by heart and often sang without really thinking about the words. It is a song of gratitude and praise, but it can mean so much more depending on how you hear it.
When I hear the lyrics, I think of expressing gratitude for the day, for being alive, for God’s creation and power, and a call to rejoice and be glad. A friend of mine was going through some difficulties in her life and heard the lyrics from a different perspective. She heard it like this:
“I WILL enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I WILL enter his courts with praise. I WILL say this is the day the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.”
What she heard was a choice–-a determination to worship and be thankful. Despite the tough stuff she was facing, she was choosing joy and gratitude, even when hope seemed elusive and life was hard.
Gratitude in all circumstances, good or bad, is a decision made in the heart and the mind.
It is on the mind that I want to focus especially. Our thoughts have the power to shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. Because of this, it is so important that our thoughts be firmly established in truth.
Paul gives us some great imagery of taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. In every situation, we have a chance to stop right in our tracks and choose which way we will allow our thoughts to take us. Will we see everything that is going wrong and let our thoughts control us, or will we capture those thoughts and turn our mind toward Jesus instead? It will take practice and we will have to work at it, but the reward is peace and incomparable joy.
After my favorite glass broke and I had swept up all the precious pieces, I sat down and caught my breath. I ate some food and enjoyed the silence of the house for a moment. I prayed and asked God to re-orient my thinking and give me strength. I focused on the truth and remembered that my day really hadn’t been a bad one. Work went well. I made it home safely. My husband had fed the kids and they were all at the baseball game where I would meet them to enjoy the rest of the evening. Peace washed over me, and I was filled with gratitude that I could come to Jesus with even the smallest of things.
Things completely turned around from there. My family had a wonderful time together and we enjoyed the day and one another. If I had left my thoughts unchecked, I would have been stressed out, grumpy and distracted instead. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the game or be patient with my kids. It would have robbed us all of a lovely evening.
When stress has me tangled up in knots, I am learning to pause, reconnect with God, re-orient my thoughts and choose gratitude and joy. When the unexpected happens and all you want to do is throw your hands up in the air and say “Jesus take the wheel!”, practice the pause. What thoughts do you need to take captive today so that you can find gratitude in truth?