“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
First of all, I urge you to read One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. This book has seriously changed my life. It is beautiful, poetic, and filled beyond measure with truth and revelation. It offers something simple too, something practical, that we can all do. And that thing is what unlocks the transformation. It’s hidden in the title: one thousand gifts. All you need to do is get a journal, your computer, some paper – whatever you like – and start counting blessings. Start listing the gifts that you’ve been given, one by one, everything that God has given you. Open your eyes to the treasures in your life. As you do, more and more will unfold before you. Beauty in the mundane; blessings in the daily routine; life bursting through the woodwork. You see, as Ann put it, “Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.” How beautiful that is.
Next thing: the following are my own revelations from counting of these gifts in my life, if only a mere fraction of them at best. And a tiny drop in the ocean of what is to come. But I want to share…
I often wonder how we have so obviously missed the truth that Jesus came to give us abundant life. This means he didn’t come for the sake of religion or to tell us to be good – he came so that we could become alive. And the life that he gives is blissful and it overfills us with goodness and peace, even if everything around us is falling apart. I’ve read stories of Christians in the Bible held as prisoners, being tortured, and they rejoiced! They sang and worshiped: they gave thanks. They knew it was an honor to suffer for God. We don’t know this. Maybe some of us know it in our heads, but we don’t know it on a level deep enough to live it. It takes our conscious act of giving thanks day-by-day, moment-by-moment, no matter how difficult it may be, to experience its power. I want to stop bittering the truly sweet gospel with hypocrisy. With what Jesus has done for us, our response should be intense and extravagant gratitude. We should be eager to give up and give back; to kneel with fervent thanksgiving; to tell our testimonies if that means we experience rejection, persecution, suffering, or even death.
I want my thanks to be powerful, genuine and life-giving. You see, this gratitude is the door to so much, because if we enter His gates with thanksgiving, then we find that in His presence is fullness of joy and peace that surpasses everything we know. I have just recently come to experience a piece of these truths so deeply. My gratitude led me straight to His presence, where He poured out a joy so thick I was literally laughing uncontrollably for 45 minutes! I have never felt so strong in my life. And this joy released a peace over me that peeled back the second skin of fear that had been entangling me for so many years. The words “You steady my heart” rang true and ever so deep in me, for He truly freed me from the trembling choke of anxiety and as I drank in the abundant joy, and laughed the of laughs, the places in me that shake with dread began to cease and be still. It was the true experience of God. The experience that nothing can ever come close to.
I heard a quote during this time of healing and freedom that deeply struck me. It goes: “The man with an experience will never be at the mercy of a man with a theory.” Yes. Experiencing God, encountering Him in such a real way that you cannot doubt Him, that is the most powerful thing in the world. It changes everything. And I have those experiences. So I will remember this one thing: I will never be at the mercy of anyone but my God. The logic of the small human mind is prideful, ignorant, and weak. When you’ve tasted and seen the illogical, upside down, glorious, fully alive, overcoming truth of God, there is nothing and no one that can take that away from you. That is why the prisoners rejoiced and sang praises. That is why the suffering can be accepted with gratitude. That is how we are set free.
This life that we know will end. The hot summer days and the cold winter nights. The feeling of warm sand or soft, green grass under our feet. The sunlight bursting over mountaintops and sinking behind the horizon. The pounding rain outside and the thunderstorms that quake the earth. The beauty of the death that is autumn and the life that is spring. Closing tired eyes. Waking up to birds singing in the morning and not wanting to get out of bed because it’s so warm and cozy. It’s going to end. And I don’t want to miss it. So I choose to notice it. I choose to stop and open up. There is so much beauty all around me. So much to be grateful for. And as I notice, I am transformed, and as I am transformed, I encounter something: something so powerful that my whole being, my whole life, is forever changed.