Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.“
I have recently been reminded of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I read the first half or so, and then it got buried under many other reads over the past months, nearing a year.
Jen loves her blog, and last year (maybe even more than a year?) purchased Ann’s book and connected deeply with the themes developed within its pages. She quoted much of the book to me in small snippets as she read it. Then she suggested I read it—or, maybe I even just wanted to on my own, both on her somewhat “unspoken” recommendation and because since Jen so identified with it, I knew I’d find some more of my wife’s heart in those pages.
And I did. And the book was saying what we needed to hear—probably what we all always need to hear.
Be thankful. Always.
The scripture quoted above is from Colossians 3:15. Definitely one of the books of the Bible that most resonates with me. I quote often from it. I have several songs that are based on truths Paul shared in his letter to the Colossian Christians. So much great truth found in those few pages.
These couple of verses have been meaningful recently as we have really needed peace. And he has given it. Deep peace. But it’s meaningful beyond the more difficult times of life, even in the ordinary. Especially for a large family with many youngsters like ours. “You are called to live in peace.” Yes, children… you are. And sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. But the source of peace—inner and outer—is obvious from the first sentence. It’s Jesus. When his peace rules in our hearts, then it overflows to the people in our family—whether by blood or by spiritual family connection.
But one of the shortest sentences from the whole letter might be most meaningful to our lives.
And always be thankful.
Sounds like an afterthought. “Oh yeah… don’t forget…” But it’s somehow the foundation of our joy, our happiness, our Life. So much junk in life: our own, our family members’, junk from other people around us, and just the junk that is beyond anyone’s control. But somehow—when we can transcend the hurt, often by a simple trust in the person most worthy of trust—we can even be grateful for the junk.
Jen read a story for us recently from another book she just finished (The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom) which was also about “always be[ing] thankful”. In summary, while detained by German soldiers in a flea-infested and otherwise nearly uninhabitable room, Corrie’s sister discovered the key to the Life God wanted for them was to be thankful—for everything. That meant even the fleas. Corrie reluctantly agreed to be thankful for all things, even the ones that seemed to have absolutely no value at all.
Much later, looking back on everything, they realized (or learned?) that the guards had left them almost entirely to themselves because of the fleas! They were able to pray, have and read from their Bible, and have many freedoms they might not have otherwise had… because of the fleas. And they lived life a bit more fully because they were thankful for something that seemed only awful, even without knowing how it could be used for good.
Now several days later, at bedtime, after a day with some hard things in it, I decided to ask the girls to share some things they liked about the day, and some things that were hard or sad from the day. They came up with both fairly easily, with only slightly more thought put into choosing the one thing they found most difficult from the day just lived. Once we all had shared our favorite and maybe least favorite moments from the day I said, “OK, now let’s tell God how we are thankful for those things.”
I started out with the good, and then repeated back the things that each of us had highlighted as our difficult or bad thing from the day. When I got to Julia’s she was surprised that I strung together “thank you” and her bad part of the day. I smiled at her and asked if she remembered the flea story that Mom told earlier. A light of recognition flashed in her eyes and she said, “Oh yeah! Like the fleas! They were bad, but then they kept the soldiers away so they could pray!”
Yes! Like the fleas!
And so we continued, thankful even for the harder parts of the day. And sleep came quickly, and peacefully.
They are not magic words, that somehow make us cheery and unnaturally full of joy despite current circumstances. But it is a somewhat magic truth. When we can implement them, like the Ten Booms, we can know peace. And even joy.
Ann Voskamp uses the refrain Eucharisteo in her book. The Greek “give thanks”. The words, the idea–but even more, the action—have power. A power to give us life, from the One who is Life.
It comes from our perspective. Thankfulness gets the focus off of us, and onto him. He is the source of our Life, and hope, and every good thing. (Even when we can’t yet see goodness.)
That’s not to say there isn’t still junk. Or that some junk is just plain bad.
But always be thankful. That’s the succinct afterthought from Paul’s email to new believers that can still bring us much more of the life Jesus wants for us to live. One where we see goodness in the craziest places. Even where it doesn’t seem good, or isn’t good. We have hope, and we trust his goodness.
And we can always be thankful.