As I move forward from the shadows of 2020, I resolve to be more grateful. Paul wrote to his brothers and sisters in Philippi: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:6-7).
Gratitude is the antidote for depression. It is the remedy for selfishness and counter-productive anxiety. It counters self-pity and leads to healthy self-esteem. Two huge opposing forces in our lives are fear and faith, apprehension and trust. They fight like cats and dogs, and it is our choice to be sure which one wins. Paul challenged us to choose gratitude over anxiety in “every situation!” Wow. Depending upon the situation, it is often difficult for my heart (emotions) and my mind (my thoughts) to just naturally fall into a state of gratitude.
So, I resolve to work toward an attitude of gratitude instead of anxiety, criticism, complaint and comparison. First, I am grateful for things – material possessions. I love where I live and the countless material blessings God has given me. I am grateful that my husband and I both had jobs, that we saved and spent wisely and that now we can “retire” on enough. Lots of people have lots of nice things in a greater quantity than I do, and that’s okay. At this point in my life, I find that I need fewer and fewer things. In fact, we are trying to “downsize,” and eliminate all unnecessary stuff. I can’t believe how much stuff we accumulated over the years, and how much we do not need anymore. AND, I also know that we cannot grasp too tightly onto the things of this world. Things can become our idols and can take the place of God in our lives. Ultimately, things cannot replace the love, joy, peace and grace of God.
Second, I am grateful for people – friends and family and even strangers who I have yet to meet. I love people and I think I was made for community. During the pandemic quarantine of 2020, I realized that I sorely missed the fellowship that I enjoyed with other people. While I know this is not true for everyone, I am energized by other people. I am grateful for the people who love me for who I am, not for who they want me to be. I am grateful for family members who I have lost, because their lives usually made me a better person. I am grateful for friends who have rejected me for my beliefs, because they made me think about them. AND, counting on acceptance and support from other people can make them into false idols, too. If we say things and do things for the approval of other people, then that can take the place of the approval of God. Ultimately, people cannot replace the love, joy, peace and grace of God.
Third – and perhaps most important — I am grateful for God’s grace. Paul also taught us that, “like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:3-4). Through his atoning work on the cross, Christ gave us the greatest gift of all – forgiveness and a relationship with the God of the universe. Undeserving, we must respond to the gift of life and amazing love with a grateful heart.
Thus, I resolve to be more thankful for my life, for my time on this earth, and for eternity with God.