Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas too. And I’m sitting here mulling over in my head something that God has been teaching me for a very, very long time—that there must be keys to the abundant life He said that He came to give to us in John 10:10 He came to give us life to the full; abundant life. So why is it that so many of us are just trying to survive instead of thriving at life? I know I’m guilty of waking up and just wanting to make it through another day, just going through the motions, a laugh here or there, some time with family, cooking, cleaning, teaching………..that’s life. Nothing remarkable or earth shattering, Just the daily occassionally interrupted by the amazing or the devastating.
But it has nagged at my very center for a long time: there has to be something more to this idea of abundant life. If Jesus came to give it and so many of us are lacking it, I kept wondering how I was missing it. How so many of us are missing it. I know that many theologians have written on the “hard sayings” of Christ. And, He said a lot of hard stuff, stuff that is just plain hard to do, but truth is, those hard things are really rather simplistic (not easy by any means) and He wouldn’t have commanded them of His followers, of His children, if there wasn’t something remarkable about living them out. If they didn’t work for our greater good and the greater good of His Kingdom. Forgiving our enemies, blessing those that curse us, praying for those who persecute us…………….not easy, yet not complicated either. Could these be some of the keys to life abundant in Christ?
In Thessalonians 5:18 we are told to “Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” Not easy, yet not complicated! There isn’t some deep theological underpinning to any of these commands of God. They are spelled out clearly, simplistically so even a child can understand them. They are keys to unlock the abundant life He came to give to us, yet they remain useless if we don’t pick them up and use them!
He has given us the keys and He has given us free will to use them or not to use them. Amazing how I want abundant life but I want to work it out my way! I tend to think my way has got to work better, that I can just tweak a bit of what God said in His Word and then I can be comfortable and have His abundant life………….yeah, been trying that one and I can tell you it doesn’t work. Speaking of keys, there is a resounding key element in what I’ve been saying: and it is that little pronoun “I”. I get to choose but I have to choose His way not my way. A key will only open the door that it was crafted and designed to open even if it appears to fit another door.
So what about this one key? What about the key in 1 Thess. 5:18 that tells us to give thanks in all circumstances? Yeah, that one: the Thanks-Living key! Why is being thankful in all circumstances so hard? Oh, yeah, because some circumstances are hard. Some just plain out stink. Some are horribly unfair. Some are difficult. Some painful. Yep, circumstances……..He surely didn’t mean those kind of circumstances, To tell the truth, when He brought this scripture to a resounding shout in my soul, I argued with Him. I asked Him if He was serious. I asked Him if He had really seen my circumstances over the last couple years………………….Yeah, I know…………….the finite arguing with the Infinite about how His theology must somehow be flawed. Not exactly brilliant on my part. But He is gracious, so very gracious.
The last two years had brought the loss of my husband’s job, serious health issues, a horrible custody battle, a son’s addiction, incredibly difficult financial struggles, the death of my Mom on Christmas morning 2 years ago. And those are just a few of the challenges we faced that seemed to have no happy conclusion in sight. Yet, try as I might, I couldn’t shake this whole thankful thing. God said to give thanks in all circumstances. In ALL circumstances. And He also said that He is for me, so if He is for me then there must be some key piece of the puzzle here in the concept of giving thanks.
Thanks-Living! What is there to be thankful for in all circumstances? There are some things that always are: His presence, His love, His peace, His light splashed against the canvas of life when all seems dark, a hope that does not disappoint. Thanks-Living! Shortly after God began to deal with me and my lack of Thanks-Living lifestyle, I ran across a website by author Ann Voskamp called aholyexperience.com and she was talking about this very thing! No coincidence there! Living thanks everyday; allowing gratitude to flood the soul, to renew the mind and to transform us from survivors to abundant thrivers. I have put it into practice and it truly worked! Then, I got frustrated so I neglected the Thanks-Living; then I got lazy and kept neglecting it and went right back to surviving. Crazy, huh?
So this Christmas, when I got to thinking about how much I missed my Mom. About how she would have loved to see the boys running around completing our crazy Christmas Survivor challenge to find the clues to their presents; I had a moment, key in hand, the choice to use that key to open the door to an abundant living day, or to set it down and choose my way of grief and loss; and I decided to choose His way! Instead of focusing on the loss of my mom, I chose to focus on what I had gained by being her daughter, on the lessons she showed me about Christmas giving and memory making. Thanks-Living: a daily habit of picking up this one key and opening the door to abundant life through transforming the way we see our circumstances, to the way we see ourselves, to the way we see our God So, on my FaceBook page I have issued a challenge to 5 of my good friends. The challenge is to share 3 things a day for 5 days on FB that they are thankful for and then in turn, to challenge 5 of their friends to do the same. Maybe we can begin a chain of Thanks Living that will hold the keys unlock abundant life in us that will shine His light into the difficult circumstances of those around us bringing to them a new hope, a new way of living!