Right now, how we start our days matters more than ever. There is one thing you should be doing to start every single day, especially in a time of trouble: gratitude.
It seems like an odd thing to say when so much of our daily lives are constrained and uncomfortable—when we are bouncing around emotionally between disappointment, anxiety, anger, and fear. The problems are big right now. To give ourselves a fighting chance of staying afloat emotionally, relationally, and spiritually—we need to start our days well. Starting well starts with gratitude. And not just a generic “be thankful for what you still have” attitude. I mean specific gratitude pointed at the proper object for gratitude: God Himself.
I noticed a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t doing that. I had slowly let a new (bad) beginning to my day creep in. I began to reach straight for my phone. I was nervous about new restrictions, the progress of the pandemic, and the decisions of my local leaders that were going to impact our jobs, our plans, and our schools. I felt like I was waiting for the next set of dominos to fall. As I let this habit creep in, my anxiety began to rise. My heart started beating weirdly. I would cry at random things that wouldn’t normally upset me. I wasn’t having anxious thoughts all the time, but my body was sending me signals of an undercurrent of anxiety. These things began the same couple of weeks I started my day with news on my phone. Bad call.
When we let the problem in front of us set the stage for our day, the problem becomes very big, and God becomes very small. Gratitude resets our picture of a God who is still being God even when our world is disorienting and difficult. Gratitude adjusts our perspective and our vision. It’s not a denial of reality. It’s the way we reinterpret reality in light of a big and living God.
Right now, fear wants to creep in, and anxiety wants to rule us. Gratitude to God reorients us to someone who is much bigger and more capable than our problems. There is a God who is unchanging and in control; a God who is not surprised nor scrambling to handle what’s happening; a God who sees each of us, knows what we face and is involved in the daily details of our weird lives right now.
As we turn our hearts and minds and eyes to him, it naturally pushes us into the place we actually belong. Next to Him, we are small and waaaaaaaaaaay beneath him. The prophet Isaiah described Him like this saying, “The Lord says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” We are not just small. We are also cared about, given grace, and listened to by Him.
When we look around in gratitude, we start to experience Jesus showing us ways that He understands what we are facing because he’s been here. John wrote that Jesus came and lived among us (John 1:14); that He is a light in our darkness (John 1:5), and that through Him we have received grace after grace; one blessing after another (John 1:16). Gratitude makes that all possible to see.
Today I thanked God for these things as I woke up and remembered so much about him.
- A home that He led us to that feels like a perfect fit even when all six of us are here all the time.
- Strong legs He designed to heal from my past injuries so I can run and walk today.
- The ache to return to normal that makes me appreciate the abundance I’ve enjoyed.
- The tenacity of our staff to love His people gives me trust and hope in who He is.
- My kids’ ability to work and laugh in the midst of this encourages me as a mom.
- The chance to use my gifts in a new way helps me see this time isn’t “wasted” professionally.
- The five-dollar bill I found on my desk came out of nowhere, just like His little gifts do.
- The story of my neighbor’s cancer reminded me to have compassion for the scars we all carry.
- The vase of daffodils on my table that reminds me of His kind of hope.
- Beautiful spring sunshine that warms everything as He does.
- The woods behind my house that shows me spring is coming and reminds me that He is faithful.
We feel anxious and weak right now. Many of our jobs, security, emotions, and even lives feel threatened. Now is the time to fight against the fear that would love to rule over us. We need to start our day looking for the God who is vast, beautiful, sovereign, and kind even when all the crap is hitting the fan.
Do it out loud. Do it on a walk. Write it in a journal. Sing it in a song. Make a silent gratitude list in your head, so you don’t wake the toddler asleep next to you. Set a reminder on your phone that says, “Gratitude!” to be waiting for you when you reach for the news at 6am. Do whatever you need to do to NOT start your day with the problems in front of you. It’s only going to be through intentional gratitude that we see full reality and grasp that what God told Paul from 2 Corinthians 12:9 is true for each of us as well; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”