I was filled with anxiety that kept me up at night and buzzed around my head throughout the day. It knotted up my stomach and made me want to simultaneously fix the problem and hide under my the poor comfort of my blankets. (It's hard to find any comfort at all when one is anxious.)
I made a mistake, due partly out of ignorance, and it diminished my sense of self-worth. I began to see a recurring pattern of failures in my character. Hating this self-loathing, I began to work on counter measures for the future. As much as I worked, however, I couldn't shake away the feelings of worthlessness.
With these feelings in mind, I reluctantly closed my computer at the end of the week and went out to serve with my intern group. I returned a renewed person with a firm resolve not to dwell on the past but to work towards the future. I had been filled with living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Serving with my intern group, I was made to turn outwards, and in the process, I found myself thinking less about my own concerns and more about how I could build similar connections in my church's neighborhood. In seeking to bless others, I finally began the process of letting go of my anxiety and embracing gratitude.
- Gratitude for the sunny weather.
- Gratitude for the opportunity to bless others.
- Gratitude for the wonderful people with whom I've been blessed to work this summer.
- Gratitude for having the capability to serve my local community.
- Gratitude for the work I've been privileged to do and continue to do.
. . . the list goes on.
There's nothing wrong with planning for the future. In fact, it can help us steward our time wisely and give more to others. If we plan too much, however, we run the risk of making an idol of the process and forgetting our true Lord.
My best of plans couldn't save me because I don't have the power to save myself. Only Jesus has the power to do that, and he already did. In trying to take care of my problems, I turned inwards to myself and became blind to the outside reality—that God is in control, and He wants me to turn to Him before all else.
We need to keep in mind is that we can't rely on the self alone. I can make the best plans in the world, but in the end, God is in control (Proverbs 16:9). If my plans don't align with His will, then nothing will come of them. This isn't because God hates me and wants to see me fail. Far from it. More than anyone else, He understands my weaknesses, and He wants me to trust Him with my concerns. He will bear my burdens for me. As Jesus says, his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30).
When I recognize God's sovereignty, I can let go of the burden of trying to do everything my way and am free to follow His good path. I can let of my anxiety and find joy in His blessings. I can let go of selfish desires and live with gratitude for what I have been given.
In embracing gratitude, my problem hasn't gone away. In fact, I'm still working to do something about it.
What has changed is my attitude.
Instead of dwelling on the negativity, I accept that I have failed in the past, but it doesn't define me; my identity rests in Jesus Christ. I acknowledge there is a problem, and I can do something about it. I understood that I am a flawed human, but God will give me the wisdom to discern His ways. I am a sinner, but I am also a child of the One True King. And He has the power to make something wonderful out of my life.
While at the store the other day, I saw a planner with the following words printed on its cover:
Start Each Morning with a Grateful Heart
Gratitude has tremendous power.
When we allow gratitude to fill our hearts, it opens our eyes to the many ways we've been blessed. It burns away the negativity taking root in our hearts. Recognition of our blessings points to God's grace. He has freely given us countless gifts. And when we have God's grace, what can we have but abundant joy?
Only when my heart is filled with gratitude can I make any plans for the future because only with gratitude can I begin to understand God's awesome power. Only with gratitude will I trust in His provisions.
With Him by my side, I need not worry about the future. He is in control, and He will give me the fortitude to walk content through the storm.
Therefore, let us start each morning with a grateful heart that sings praises for our Lord and Savior.