“Thankful” is my word or theme for this year 2020. What a year to be trying to intentionally put this into practice!  The end of 2019 had some hard times, struggles with family issues and things not going as I thought they would (can anyone relate??). Little did I know in the fall of 2019 that more things wouldn’t go as planned in the spring of 2020!

But God has been faithfully reminding me of this verse.

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess 5:18)

He has also reminded me of my commitment to be thankful! As I train my heart and mind to give thanks, I’m recognizing day after day that God is good. I can see His hand at work in ALL things working together for good, even when sometimes the individual pieces don’t feel or look so good. This has been a journey over the last months of learning to SEE things from a different perspective.

A thanksgiving journal

I have started to keep a thanksgiving journal each day. I am trying to notice the big and little things around me, in me and in others, that God is doing. Remembering, noticing and giving thanks on a daily basis has become a refreshing, life-giving practice, starting my day with coffee and a thankful heart 🙂 It’s helped me to see even the hard things, the things that don’t make sense, as part of God’s story that He’s writing in my life. It’s challenged me to be able to express my trust in Him, when there’s trouble as well as joy. I am remembering that God is doing a work in me through the good and through the sufferings, whatever they might look like.

He’s developing perseverance, character, and hope, I trust, as a result of the sufferings (Rom 5:3-4). Oh, I want those characteristics in my life and I’m thankful for them, but the sufferings….are they really worth it? Well, I can’t choose whether they come or not, so I thank God for the surgery He’s doing on my heart, using the hard to produce good, allowing pain that brings healing.

He’s challenged me as well to look for and be thankful for the little victories even in a long battle with discouragement or change that isn’t coming. Often the big picture may still seem bleak but there are rays of hope; there are encouragements in other realms that lighten my heart and bring a smile to my face. Thank you, God!

Triggers to be thankful

Being thankful has also had a way of centering me on Christ. It is becoming (slowly but surely) my response when I see sinful attitudes creep in. A complaint on my lips or in my heart (of workload, curfews, tight restrictions, plans canceled) has become a trigger for me to focus on “What can I be thankful for in this situation?” I sense a twinge of jealousy or envy for a blessing or situation that my friend or sister is enjoying but I don’t have. “Be thankful for her, that she has this joy and stop comparing!” Anxiety creeps in over the ”what if’s” of the future or all the unanswered questions.  “Do not be anxious for anything….” (Phil 4:6-7) is my quick go-to.

But the anxiety really has become a trigger in my mind to stop and be thankful for what I do know. More than anything, God is reminding me to be thankful for Him. He is already there in the tomorrows and holds my future, and the future of all those that I love. Being thankful is building my trust. It is really helping me see and confess the sin that so quickly creeps into my heart and attitude. It’s becoming a means by which I can submit to God and His will and plans for me. Through this, I resist the devil’s schemes to discourage and distract me in my walk with God.

Even though …

As I’m thanking God day by day, I’m trusting Him for big things, for what He will do in me and through me and in others.  But I’m also determining to rejoice and be thankful even though the answers may look different from what I had hoped. “Yet, I will celebrate,” was the topic of a Velvet Ashes online retreat I had the chance to participate in recently. It was so good to be challenged to celebrate, even though… The “even though’s” of Habbakuk 3:17-18 relate to figs and cows and sheep in the pen. But I’ve been writing out my own “even though’s” that are real to me. This is helping me to choose to be thankful and to celebrate God’s goodness, every day.

As I look back over these first 6 months of 2020, my thanksgiving journal is almost full. What a testimony to GOD’s faithfulness during these uncertain days!  I’m seeing that practicing thanksgiving and a thankful heart truly lead to joy and contentment, regardless of the circumstances. My perspective is changing. Thank you, Jesus! I am praying that your heart too will grow in gratitude!

This post was written by Lynn Jackson, one of our cross-cultural workers in Europe. It was originally published in Mosaic, SEND’s Women’s Ministry newsletter.