My Boundless Gratitude — in Retrospect

This Thanksgiving was a chance to reflect once again on my “Gratitude Quotient.” I concluded that I’m happier and more grateful than I’ve been in many years.

However, I uncovered a blog I wrote several years ago admitting two disturbing things: (1) I’m still not nearly as grateful as I should be for how God has blessed me; and (2) Many of the things I’m now MOST grateful for are past events I wasn’t grateful for at all  when they were taking place.

I call this second point “gratitude in retrospect,” the phenomenon of being grateful today for situations I once grumbled about.

Perhaps you can relate. Have you gone through difficult times when it was extremely difficult to give thanks? But now, as you look back, you see that God was at work through it all. Gratitude (finally!) rises in your heart as you see how the painful events have been beautifully woven into the fabric of your life.

  • Maybe you had a relationship breakup that tore your very heart…but it paved the way for the Lord to provide someone much better in your life.
  • Maybe you faced a severe trial in your health…but it caused you to make lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise – and now you’re feeling better than ever.
  • Maybe you lost a job you thought you’d have until retirement…but God opened (or will open) a new door that’s a much better fit for your gifts and passions.
  • Maybe you’ve experienced a financial meltdown, such as foreclosure or bankruptcy…but you learned vital lessons that eventually put you on the path to prosperity.
  • Maybe you went through some other difficult experience that has now given you a platform to help others.

These are just a few examples of how “gratitude in retrospect” can occur. I first noticed this in my life a few years ago, when a friend suggested that I write a book about church splits. “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” was my initial thought. “Even though I’m an expert on church splits, who would ever be interested in a book about that?”

But my tech-savvy friend pointed out that 8,000 people every month do a Google search on the subject of church splits. “Wow. There must be a lot of people dealing with this,” I concluded.

As a result of that conversation, I wrote The Complete Guide to Church Splits: Prevention, Survival, and Recovery (which I can send you upon request). This event was a great example to me of Paul’s statement that we can comfort others with the same comfort we received from God during our own times of affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Working on my book about church splits sparked something much bigger in my heart than just a new book project: I discovered that God had been a lot more faithful than I had given Him credit for. And I became much more grateful for the difficult things I’ve experienced in life – even though my gratitude was too often in retrospect.

I’m still troubled by my struggle to be grateful at the same time as my trials are occurring. The Bible instructs us to give thanks “IN everything,” not just AFTER everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I’m also sad that although I’ve given lip service to Romans 8:28 for decades, God’s amazing promise there is still not rooted as deeply in my life as it should be. Paul had gone through incredible trials (2 Corinthians 11:22-28), yet he said, “We KNOW that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

As the truth of Romans 8:28 becomes more a part of my life, I hope to become more grateful all the time – not just in retrospect. I want to become increasingly aware that God is always working to “connect the dots” in my life, creating a masterpiece I could never have imagined during my times of adversity.

So I pray you will join me in being grateful TODAY – no matter what the day brings…no matter what you may be going through. You may not understand it all today, but you can be confident the Lord is working out His wonderful plan nevertheless.

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The Selah Struggle

God’s Hardest Commandment for Me to Keep

Would a loving God ever tell His people to “shut up and listen”? Well, that’s basically the meaning of a word that occurs 74 times in the Bible.

Although scholars aren’t certain the precise meaning of the word Selah, the best suggestions are “pause and think about it” or “stop and listen.” The Hebrew word is generally used in the context of songs or poetry, and it seems to denote a time to stop singing and let the words sink in.

Why does God have to tell us 74 times  to be quiet and ponder what we’ve heard? Probably because listening is so hard  for us! Well, at least it’s hard for me. Maybe you’ve mastered the art of silence, but I know I haven’t.

Often I mindlessly read the Scriptures, sing worship songs, or listen to sermons. The words don’t sink in, because I’ve never paused to meditate on what they really mean.

The Selah  commandment seems harder in the 21st century than it has ever been before. We are so time-conscious that we don’t want to waste even a second to stop and listen…ponder…reflect.

Life has become an endless stream of activity, conversation, and noise. No time to pause and take it all in. Never a moment to consider what it all means. No, we’re wired for sound every waking moment.

Yet Selah  was never meant to be an option. God commands us to take Selah  moments to pause and reflect on who He is and what He is saying to us.

In the course of just 11 verses, Psalm 46 tells us three times to Selah. Verse 10 famously puts Selah  in context: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

When was the last time you quieted your heart enough to know—to really  know—that He is God, and that He will ultimately be exalted in all the earth? What a life-changing habit that would be.

Other translations of “be still”  have been offered: cease striving…let go…relax. Can you think of anything more therapeutic than a good dose of Selah  every day? I can’t.

So I encourage you to take time to Selah  today. It will surely change your life.

 

 

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