On the Other Side of Gratitude
I know a lot of people who suffer from a noticeable deficiency of peace. I’m one of them sometimes. I’m not talking about a peace that equates to having a day with nothing on the calendar, plopping down on the sofa with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Not that this doesn't sound inviting, but let’s be honest—that’s a rare occasion for most of us. The peace I’m talking about doesn't require a mountain cabin or a getaway weekend. It can happen anywhere, even in the most hectic moments and places of your life.
But only because gratitude knows where to look for it.
If we were sitting across the table from each other, you could tell me what’s stealing your peace right now without having to think hard. You may be grieving a loss that never settles far from your conscious thoughts. You may be crying yourself to sleep at night over a situation with a son or daughter that is beyond your ability to control—a failing marriage, a little one undergoing diagnostic medical tests, perhaps open rebellion against God and against your parenting decisions. Maybe you’re facing some health issues of your own, or your income just isn't meeting your monthly expenses, or your church is in turmoil over some hot-button issue.
We know that we can and should pray about these matters. But praying is not all that we can and should do. “Do not be anxious about anything,” the apostle Paul wrote, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).
To put it even more simply: In every situation... prayer + thanksgiving = peace.
When prayer teams up with gratitude, when we open our eyes wide enough to see God’s mercies even in the midst of our pain, and when we exercise faith and give Him thanks even when we can’t see those mercies, He meets us with His indescribable peace. It’s a promise.
Oh, we can try it the other way. Without thanksgiving. Author and Bible teacher Beth Moore describes the way most people live, by substituting the familiar phrases from Philippians 4:6–7 with their polar opposites:
Do not be calm about anything, but in everything, by dwelling on it constantly and feeling picked on by God, with thoughts like, “And this is the thanks I get,” present your aggravations to everyone you know but Him. And the acid in your stomach, which transcends all milk products, will cause you an ulcer, and the doctor bills will cause you a heart attack, and you will lose your mind.
Prayer is vital—but to really experience His peace, we must come to Him with gratitude. Hard gratitude. Costly gratitude. The kind that trusts He is working for our good even in unpleasant circumstances... the kind that garrisons our troubled hearts and minds with His inexplicable peace.
Are you facing one or more chaotic, unsettled situations? Is your soul weary from striving, stress, and strain? There is peace, my friend—God’s peace—waiting for you just beyond the doors of deliberate gratitude. But the only way to find it is to go there and see for yourself.