See Luminosity

Giving Thanks to Have Joy

Giving Thanks to Have Joy

How to Stay in the Present

God is found in the present. In this moment. And we miss Him if we don’t seek Him, His presence, His sustenance, just for where we are right now. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning daily since losing Dominic.

So how do we actually seek God’s glory, as Christ did, in every moment, instead of asking God to rescue us from the moment? How do we bring our focus from incessantly ruminating in the past, or maniacally planning for or worry about the future, and into the present, where God is?

The Lord has been showing me the answer to that, since Dominic, too.
It’s in giving thanks to the Lord, in every moment.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances”. We tend to skip over that, until the circumstances really, really suck. Then all of a sudden the verse shocks. All circumstances? Surely not all. Babies dying? Really, all?

Yes. All. Why?

Because God is good. And because He always works for good. No matter what it may look like from our limited perspective.

God is Good and God Works For Good

Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good”. Psalm 34:8 concurs, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Not because he gives good things or makes the situation good, but because he IS good. Yet He not only is the essence of goodness; He actively works goodness in all situations for those who love him. Psalm 84:11 says “…The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” And of course there is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”.

If we truly believe God is good, and that He works all things for good, then we should be able to thank him in every situation, because every situation is an opportunity for us to experience God’s goodness.

This idea of thanksgiving – of finding God’s glory in every moment of life – it’s like a challenge. This isn’t general saying-grace-at-the-table thanksgiving. It’s not a Pollyanna thanksgiving sing-songed by the eternal optimists who refuse to see life as it really is. I’m talking about naming the specific things in this moment right now for which I can thank the Lord, regardless of how good or bad the moment might be. It’s thanksgiving from the gut.  And sometimes that means it’s hanging-on-with-claws thanksgiving. Groaning thanksgiving when it won’t come out in words.

No wonder it’s called a “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15; it’s not a sacrifice unless it costs us something. It doesn’t cost me anything to thank the Lord when my circumstances are good. The challenge, I believe, the path to joy, is to offer the sacrifice of praise, of thanksgiving, in EVERY THING. Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, points out that the Greek word for thanksgiving, eucharisteo, has its root in the Greek word for joy (chara). Joy comes from giving thanks. So that’s the challenge. To consciously, with effort, with intentionality, seek out the God glory in everything. Not in a general sense, but in each small little daily moment. To be present in each moment by thanking in each moment.

It’s not just a theological concept for me. I feel like a blessing-hunter; a marksman searching for the game that is God’s glory. Where is the God-gift in this? How is Lord working for good in that? It’s been a lifeline…a practical effort to find joy and feel God’s presence. Naming the things we are thankful for brings our focus back to the present, back to the God who gave us those blessings. And, amazingly, it works. As I have begun to focus, every moment, on finding God’s glory in each thing that happens, I find myself complaining and feeling sorry for myself less, and experiencing God more. And I’m experiencing, yes, JOY. Even with no baby.

Because joy is not the absence of pain. Joy is the presence of God.

Seeing Good in the Bad

– The kids are arguing? Thank you, Lord. In it you give me the chance to teach them how to put one another before themselves.
– The computer’s audio isn’t working (again)? Thank you, Lord. In it you work with me on patience, so my children can some day have a mother who gets upset only at the things that really matter.
– We can’t pay that medical bill? Thank you, Lord. In it you show me to rely on you rather than on material wealth for my well-being.
– Our baby died? ——–

Can I say it? Maybe not fully, not yet. But I’m actually starting to be able to see the ways the Lord has worked good in that, too. He’s even prompted me to make a list, entitled “Good From Dominic’s Death”. Because in this moment, I need a little extra help in seeing the God-glory, and the Lord speaks to me best when I write things down. I want to be able to truly thank Him for even this, too. One of the ones on my list?

#15 – I’ve been able to experience the Lord more in the details of life.

Giving thanks, in each moment, has helped me to be able to do that.

What Thanksgiving Does

For example, Paul talks about the power of thanksgiving, in 1 Corinthians 10:16: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” Yes, thanksgiving is so powerful that it ushers us into being a part of what Christ is doing. It allows us to participate in the blood of Christ, not just benefit from it. Thanking God can do that?

Colossians 2:6 says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” We are to live in Him overflowing with thankfulness. Not, I think, only because of what Christ has done for us, but because the action of thanking the Lord actually helps us continue to live in Him!

And Jesus lived it. Thanksgiving, in every situation. When there wasn’t enough food for 5,000 people, Jesus gave thanks and suddenly the food multiplied. During the last supper, right before having to suffer on a cross, he gave thanks as he took the cup. When he prayed in the garden (John 17), just before the most difficult time of his life, He prayed that God would be glorified, and, again, demonstrated thanksgiving: “Everything you have given me comes from you.”

And why did he seek God’s glory, through thankfulness? “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my JOY within them.” (John 17:13). Seeking God’s glory in every situation happens by thanking God in every situation, because He is good and He works for good – which leads to joy.

Joy. I want joy. So I am going to thank the Lord. I’m going to work to find his blessings in doing the laundry, and in the guy who cuts me off, and in my daughter’s complaining about her school work. I’m going to thank God in the clothes that were left out and the bills that we have to pay and in the death of my baby. Because my God is good. And He works good. Even in the bad. ESPECIALLY in the bad. In the Lord’s hands, even the worst of life become opportunities for Him to give us the best of life, if we recognize them as gifts from Him. I want to see the gifts. And I want to experience the joy. So, today, I will thank.

And I do believe that one day I will be able to see how His goodness, and the goodness He worked in all of those painful moments, has far, far surpassed any of the bad.

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