Being thankful is so powerful, I’m surprised at how often I need to be reminded to do it. Recently I was struggling with anxiety because of some unanswered questions. I had been losing so much energy, joy, and mind-space to the fearful possibilities on which I was focusing. Fear is such a thief.
One good thing: I spent a lot more time with God because I knew I needed Him. He somehow kept patiently reminding me of what He’s told me hundreds of times before: Remember to be thankful.
Sometimes journaling helps. In an old journal I have written, in large, frustrated letters: “THANK YOU FOR GUACAMOLE.” It was clearly the only thing I could think of to be thankful for at that moment. Being thankful can be hard work, especially when we are stuck in a negative mindset. It often requires creativity. But I find that once I begin, it comes more easily, and can be fun once I get on a roll.
Being thankful changes our focus, helping us to realize we are not in charge. It digs us out of the trap of negative thinking. And I think there is also an element that can’t be easily explained in the natural — being thankful somehow changes the spiritual “air” around us, and intimidates the enemy of our souls.
Best of all, being thankful is like a GPS driving us in the most direct route to the Presence of the Father. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name” – Psalm 100:4. And from there, seeing Him more clearly without negative thoughts to blind us, we are more free to worship Him, and to just enjoy being near him. The enemy flees. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” – James 4:7. Being thankful is an excellent way to resist, and it brings freedom.
I have such a well-developed habit of thinking of the worst case scenario. People have asked me, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” (meaning to be helpful). Well, I suggest that you don’t ask an INFP that question. We have stellar imaginations. I can come up with mind boggling disasters that would make you regret asking (if I happened to put it into words, instead of my usual brief, conventional answer followed by silently growing, fear-fertilizing thoughts that can hardly be stopped).
Recently, I decided to go with thinking about the best case scenario. “What’s the best thing that could happen in this situation?” I ask myself, and think and imagine great and exciting possibilities. I have found that my best case scenario is pretty realistic compared with the worst case. And it is at least as likely to happen. This change of focus has been a wonderful tool, and has taken a lot of fear weight off of me. I am looking forward to the day when it will be a habit, rather than a discipline.
It keeps coming up. I had just gotten up from spending time with God, journaling, hearing again about “play.” As often happens, I slightly doubted what I had heard. I don’t doubt God’s ability to speak, but often I doubt my ability to hear Him (side note: it’s a no brainer to me that if I “hear” something that doesn’t align with Scripture, it’s not from Him). And He is so kind. I picked up my device to check something and there was a new notification on the screen telling me that a friend of mine had added a Pinterest board entitled, “Play.” And this friend has connections in my mind with particular life dreams (that began in childhood) that God is also encouraging me about. With that He encouraged me to believe, like a child.
Play. Being childlike. Trusting my Father. Having fun. Not being productive. I’m slightly embarrassed when I think how long He has been speaking to me about this and therefore how long it’s taking me to get it. Years. But it’s ok. It’s like a long conversation. I’m learning that He loves the process, the long conversations, just as I love teaching my own kids things that take years because there are so many layers of learning. So much time together, communicating. So many layers, so many individual lessons. I’m realizing I cannot cram all of these into one blog post. So I’ll end this one where it all began for me long ago; with these favorite verses:
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:14-16