“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV
Sitting to write a piece covering gratitude I was flooded with the obvious list of people & things in my life I could discuss. But, God pressed me to look deeper & review the drawers of folders my mind has collected over the years. To reflect on the cast of characters & review a snapshot of their story of hope, instead of mine.
I was brought to pull out & share a file on an old friend we’ll call Charles. Charles was a quiet, sweet, much older than me, African American man that I was blessed to know through the Homeless Ministry I served for many years. He was bound to a wheelchair for the majority of his life due to a severe fall his mother had taken while he was in utero. There were times he could move a short distance by way of a cane or walker, but due to the mangled condition of his limbs, it made the extra attempt to walk exhausting & difficult.
We grew to develop friendships within the ministry, & saw hearts & lives like his, changed for Christ very rapidly. Seeing our congregation mixed in praise, breaking bread together after service & sharing the same table, gave me an understanding how many of us who appear to have our lives together actually hold invisible scars mirroring those the “misfits” wear outwardly. I saw so much of myself in each of those who lived on the streets. How only one decision or one circumstance separated my life from being like theirs, & vice versa. It changed my heart.
Charles was a man who needed full time care & based on his medical severity he’d found that. But, the effort to get him to church & return him home on Sunday was no small task. Just the transport of his chair & equipment required something none of us had, but God always provided. Most didn’t act like they even saw him, because to know him would change you & to be changed meant you were required to help. Many church folks don’t like the inconvenience of sacrificial serving, so he became an oversight to many.
He loved church & his gratefulness to attend caused me conviction many Sunday mornings where I’d complained through the process to arrive & he showed up with such appreciation. I’ll never forget the morning he confessed salvation. He came down the aisle on a walker. Wobbly, sweating, smiling, & full of joy. When he spoke to us he stated that he wanted to walk down to meet Jesus because that’s how he’d meet Him in eternity, on His feet with a trusting heart.
Several weeks later we were taking an offering & I watched him fumble furiously through his pockets. He accidentally dropped his portion, so I got up to crawl at his feet to gather what he’d lost. Roughly 80 cents I retrieved. On my knees with tears in my eyes, I handed the coins back to a man giving yet again, everything he could muscle up to say, “Thank You” to the Lord. His gratitude weighed far more in God’s eyes than the coins ever would.
On the coattails of a very trying & challenging time for our nation, I’ve spent more time in prayer & praise before the Lord, than I have poisoning my offering of thankfulness with fear & anger. I cannot tell you the peace that resides where anxiety would naturally have flooded me.
Rather than doubt what God promises in His Word, I choose to believe Him because of what He’s already done. He hasn’t stopped listening, so we can’t allow our grateful hearts to lie dormant while our emotions reach the tipping point. In the unknown we’ll always find our truest heart of faith.
One thing I know about gratitude, is that it never shares space with doubt. One overrides the other. We have been given a unique ability to choose what we feed- faith or fear? appreciation or apostasy? If we take moments to stop in the anxiousness, hearts racing, hands shaking, & say to God, “This isn’t how you want me to feel. Take captive these thoughts & turn my eyes back to Jesus. Tune my heart to be an instrument of joy instead of a loud, clanging symbol. Let the thanksgiving of hope & love pour from me like a fountain, especially on the days when it’s hard to praise,” He WILL provide.
That’s my prayer for us. That no matter how “right” we are, we’d rather be holy. We’ll let God use us as grateful agents of change spreading comforting truth in our strength vs. fear through weak harshness. Nobody looking in wants to follow a God we don’t believe & the Good News isn’t very good if it doesn’t pause us every day to give thanks for the very breath in our lungs.
INSIGHT & INSPIRATION:
Colossians 3:1-2, NASB, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 [a]Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
Isaiah 9:6, NASB, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 55:8-9, 11-12, NASB, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. “For you will go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Are there areas in your life where you need to cry out to God & ask Him to tune your heart to sing His praise? Will you allow Him to chop down the overgrown weeds in your mind to lead you to the peace filled clearing ahead? Is your opportunity to overflow with gratefulness blocked by a wall of being right vs. a stream of being holy?