Recently I was driving around town with my two kiddos and could feel myself slipping into a funk. This one had been lingering for the last few days and the pull felt extra strong that morning.
At this point in life I’m pretty aware that if I don’t do something about it quickly, my whole perception will become ridiculously distorted with illusions and misconceptions about reality. I may be troubled by something specific, but if I don’t purposefully get moving toward a better place in my thoughts I’ll start convincing myself that everything is wrong, nothing is right, and all is hopeless. I tend to swing from one extreme to the other fairly easily.
So on those days I do what I know works best, quickest, and most effectively. I stop repeating what is wrong or what I am burdened by, I take my eyes off what isn’t, and I simply say thank you.
My friend Allison taught this to me years ago. She called it the “thankful game,” in which she would rapidly begin listing off everything she could thank God for in a given moment. It was particularly effective during our long half-marathon runs. As tired as we were, with miles still ahead of us, our whole mindset shifted the minute we reminded ourselves how thankful we were that we even could run, that we had healthy bodies, paved roads, and shoes on our feet. The minute we remembered what was, what wasn’t didn’t seem so all-pervasive (or dire).
So in the middle of my funk last week I looked at my two-year-old daughter in the rearview mirror and told her we were going to start thanking God for all he’d given us that day. I began by thanking him for the car we were driving, the Bible study we were about to attend, and my healthy kiddos sitting in the backseat. Eloise then reminded me that we were also thankful for carseats (heck yes!) and her buddy Beckett’s mom, which made me smile.
Instantly things shifted. I wasn’t dwelling on what wasn’t going as I wanted, but instead remembering all that has been given and all that is so good around me. The practice took seconds and it immediately moved my eyes from lack to abundance, from unmet expectations to lavished gifts in my life.
And those two words made all the difference.
I’ve never forgotten the way a close pastor has always put it for me. Over and over I’ve come to him in different seasons with tears running down my face because of my disappointment or sadness over something I was walking through, wrestling with, or struggling to find peace in.
And over and over again he has responded with the words, “But we are thankful.”
Yes life is hard, but we are thankful.
Yes that’s a serious loss, but we are thankful.
Yes that’s unfair, unfortunate, or seemingly impossible, but we are still thankful.
Thankfulness isn’t attached to circumstances, which is exactly why it’s so powerful. Because ultimately thankfulness flows from deep within us, out of our awareness that all is a gift anyway. For all that is, all that isn’t, and all that we haven’t yet seen, even still we can be thankful.
Paul, writing to a new community arising in faith, told them to “thank God no matter what happens” (1 Thess 5:18).
Not only because we can and because we should, but because it changes everything. Each day shifts the minute we say thank you. Every conversation, relationship, worry – it all changes when we stop and remember again all that is good, all that is gifted, and all that God has done.
So how are you today? What’s weighing on you or worrying you? Instead of giving more thoughts and emotions to what isn’t, what if you stop, remember again how God has come through in the past, and start spouting off all that you are grateful for in the present?
Because fresh faith and fuel for today is found by pausing, lifting our eyes off our problems, and saying again those words powerfully detached from present circumstances or emotions. Thank you.