BY RACHEL AXTMANN
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bogged down with the acts of hate and violence in our country, the devastating natural disasters, the friends and loved ones who are battling life threatening illnesses, and some of the struggles I’m facing within my own family. It seems my mind tends to gravitate towards dwelling on these things. But lately, I have been more aware of the unrest it has been causing me. Thinking about these things, and all of the uncertainties associated with them, cause me to lose my peace. It affects my mood and outlook.
For me, I tend to think about them at nighttime. My mind has a break from the busyness of the day, and it starts to shift towards those things that are more complex and seemingly out of my control.
After mulling over life’s problems, I do eventually give it all over to God in prayer. While I know in my heart that this is the most effective and powerful thing I can do, I’m not always as quick to release my worries or concerns about these issues afterwards. Even after I pray, I continue to cling to these unsettled thoughts as if I don’t really have true faith or trust in God’s sovereignty to work in and through the various situations.
After carrying the weight of these things with me for the last several months, it became clear to me that I was forgetting to put into practice a very important directive from scripture, which was keeping me in a funk. I was overlooking “thanksgiving.”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. – Philippians 4:6
I had been actively trying to turn to God with my anxious thoughts through prayer, but doing so without thanksgiving was keeping me bound to my current state of mind. Thanksgiving requires reflection and a present mindfulness of all of God’s blessings and provision. When we take time to truly be thankful, it does two things:
1. It changes our perspective by turning our focus from our worries into gratitude.
2. It gives us the hope and ability to trust in the many areas of the unknown. When we reflect on all of the ways, small and large, that God has provided for us in the past, it fills us with hope that He will continue to do the same today in our current situation and in our future.
Being thankful can initially feel really hard when you’re facing a significant battle in your life. Let me encourage you to start with some of the small things – maybe even some things we often take for granted. When I began putting this into practice, God began revealing to me so many of the little things that I am truly thankful for. Let me elaborate.
I am thankful for the breath in my lungs, for electricity, for hot showers, for a safe home, for food to eat that is so plentiful with so much variety to choose from. I’m thankful for the beautiful season of fall, for windy days, warm sweaters and crunchy leaves. I am thankful for the promise of each new day. I am so thankful for the grace, love, and forgiveness of my Heavenly Father.
I’m not suggesting that simply being thankful is going to solve your problems, but I am saying that the very awareness of your many blessings is God’s antidote to dwelling on life’s uncertainties. In this beautiful season of autumn, let’s continue to take our requests and needs to God in prayer, but remember to offer our thankfulness for the abundance of His blessings in our lives, even amidst hardship.