The world feels real heavy today.
This week has been a weary one for my soul. Friends sharing their prayer needs for children with illnesses, spouses who are hospitalized and parents who are in their last days.
These heart-wrenching circumstances are coupled with the busyness of back-to-school preparations, the winding down of summer schedules, and the general day-to-day to-do lists to complete.
As I sit and pray for the Holy Spirit to give me the words to write today, my little girl quietly sneaks her sun-kissed arm around the door to my office.
She silently hangs a pretty pink paper snowflake on the doorknob.
A snowflake in the middle of August. I arch my neck around to gaze at it and I am momentarily refreshed. God has given me countless moments of pure perfection, these little snowflake blessings sprinkled all around my days.
But often it is these same little blessings that keep me running throughout the day and sleep-deprived during the night. Running to a state of mental, physical, emotional and yes, even spiritual exhaustion. This state of exhaustion can cloud my brain, weaken my body and provoke a sinful short-temperedness that runs hot and shameful.
Raising kids has not always been the priority of my life; I too recall the pressures of looming business-world deadlines, financial burdens and relationship stressors.
Prior to that season of my life, years of schooling brought about different, but just as significant afflictions of demanding professors, difficult exams and days of soul searching.
It is no secret that the enemy knows our weaknesses and uses these triggers against us. He aches to tear apart relationships, to pull us away from the God we serve and ultimately to deceive us in telling us that we are alone.
Let me just put this out here now, and say: You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone.
In the past, I have given these destructive feelings more power than they deserved. I allowed the enemy to steal too much. I allowed darkness to overshadow what should have been moments of praise and thanksgiving for the blessings around me.
Avoiding anger is a critical element to guarding my heart.
Philippians 4:8 reminds us to dwell on excellent or praiseworthy things, similar to building a fence around our hearts.
Meditating on that verse allows me to process through to a peaceful state of mind, which leads me to my first step in achieving gratefulness:
1. Examine Your Heart (Seek)
Knowing that we are not able to successfully overcome this battle alone is important. In a world that is divisive and contentious, we must first give a name to these emotions, or triggers.
Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”
Once we search into our own hearts, discern the cause of our sinful temperament, we can come to the realization that God has once again used this moment for His good. Gaining this new perspective, identifying the emotions is a significant step toward repentance and overcoming the enemy’s distraction from the blessings in front of us.
My second step in achieving gratefulness is where I am reminded again that when I am weak, He is strong. It is a humbling, yet strengthening process to bring our needs to God in prayer:
2. Fix Your Eyes (Pray)
I once again turn to my life book of instructions, where it says in Hebrews 12:2, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” As it continues, we are asked to consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that we may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).
But wait, there’s more!
Philippians 4:6 contains even more encouraging words. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Because the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
The Old Testament had already instructed this in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you…”
The power of prayer releases the enemy’s hold on us; it connects us to our Savior. It allows Him to work on our behalf. It delivers us to do Kingdom Work.
I have often heard people say that they are at full capacity, ironically meaning that they are empty - void of time, energy or other resources.
When running the race to keep up with worldly wants, we will end up finishing dead-last and dog-tired.
Proverbs 11:25 says that, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” This leads into my third step to becoming grateful:
3. Shine Your Light (Share)
Jesus called us to be the light of the world in Matthew 5. As He declared, we are not to hide, but to shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).
This is not a gritted tooth, begrudgingly type of shining either. It is a full-on joyful, heart full of love sort of light; a light that is naturally contagious – something noticeably different from the darkness of this world.
Weary, tired, anxious, sad, exhausted, angry and yes, even grumpy emotions exist in Christian lives. We are not immune to the sufferings of this world, in fact, we are told to expect suffering to occur.
But we are also given direction on how to lean on God to overcome to be the light we were called to be.