REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 45: Transforming thankfulness.
Thankfulness to God is the well proven way of warding off bitterness and feeling sorry for ourselves, just as gratitude expressed to others, wards off envy, unhappiness, pride and despondency. This has always been true and especially so with the disappointments, delays and deprivations of covid-19.
Robert Louis Stevenson said: the person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. Failure to be thankful usually takes place when we forget that God is a gracious giver, the one upon whom we depend for every day’s breath [1 Samuel 20:3] and for our daily needs [Psalm 104:27-30]. Thankfulness to God is like paying the rent! [Psalm 107].
I have found Henri Nouwen’s observation: gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an accident, a helpful reminder, especially if I have felt down or unappreciated. To practise thanking God, not just for the things I enjoy but for His kindness in granting me many creational and redemptive gifts, keeps me focussed on what does not change, rather than things that have which are getting at me. [1 Thess 5:16-18; Colossians 3:15-17].
The last two weeks we have considered aspects of prayer known as adoration and confession [as part of the prayer acrostic Adoration, Confession , Thankfulness & Supplication. Both give us immediate reasons for gratitude. The contemplation of the gracious Godhead, whether together or as separate persons will always lead to confession and thankfulness. To adore God for his majesty in Creation and Holiness will lead us to thankfulness for Jesus dealing with our sin and opening the door into his presence and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Without a Saviour, from outside of ourselves, who is fully Divine and fully man [yet sinless], there could be no grace, no pardon, no drawing near to God with confidence. Neither the pandemic nor other troublesome setbacks or even tragic sets of circumstances, need rob believers of these abiding blessings. Thankfulness keeps these sure promises alive in our minds and hearts, thus enabling us to not only persevere through, but grow because of them, and to thank God for the growth in character and grace He works in and through us [Romans 5:1-5; 8:28-39; Hebrews 12:1-12 and 1 Peter 1:3-9].
Temporal blessings can always be found if we are in the habit of looking for them. Have you seen the quip: ‘sometimes I wake up grumpy, other times I leave him asleep!’ Why is it always the husband who is left asleep? To be fair, and not sexist, we should use inclusive language for this one! Habits are neutral. Grumpiness is not a good one, whereas thankfulness certainly is. But it must be cultivated. It is a must since thankfulness is not just one of God’s good ideas for us but is commanded by Him [1 Thess 5:16-18], commended throughout the Bible [Psalm 100; Luke 17:11-19] and is what will keep us from being condemned as thankless idolaters [Rom 1:21-23]. If you find it difficult to give God thanks or to be grateful to others let me encourage you to begin today [no not today, but now!] by getting out a sheet of paper and writing down 5 things for which you can be thankful to God [and begin thanking Him, after seeking His forgiveness for failing to]. This could prove to be the adventure of a lifetime that will change your life, keep you from anxiety and facing life alone as you make it your pattern each and every day. God’s commands are good mental health. Thanking others, will also transform us and our relationships. I am not advocating flattery, but genuine gratitude for even the smallest kindnesses. Do you remember the Sunday School chorus?
Count your blessings, name them one by one [repeat twice]
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Practised thankfulness, during the pandemic, will prepare us for whatever lies ahead and keep bitterness, envy, fretting, grumbling, greed, bad memories and the like from consuming us [and those we live with], all the while contributing to our joy, contentment, patience, generosity & trust.
Peter Brain 13th October, 2020