"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." (Matt 12:25)About two weeks ago, I preached about the 'window of grace' from Romans 3 at my church in Vancouver. The people were exceptionally gracious in listening as well as affirming me in the message given. Yet, I felt a certain disappointment in myself. Words not well connected. My delivery was then interrupted by a battery which silenced the microphone in the middle of an important point. It was an animated sermon, and I put in my all as I preached, praying in my heart that people will grow to love God more. Still, I went overtime and did not manage to emphasize my final point sufficiently. After preaching about the window of grace, I felt like the one who needed that most was myself. I remember telling my group how exhausted I was, feeling spent and empty. Then this brother appeared out of nowhere. His smile and gentle hug spoke louder than words. He said a kind word, 'Thank you.' When I heard it, despite my exhaustion, I can tell it came from the bottom of his heart. Simple words uttered honestly and sincerely consoled more greatly. Yes. I need to learn to be thankful for at least 3 reasons.
Firstly, when I am thankful, I acknowledge the help of the Holy Spirit when I was preparing for the message, for the insights learned during the sermon meditation. Secondly, when I give thanks, I acknowledge the wonderful window of grace allowed me, to preach and share from the pulpit. It is the Word of God, shared by the preacher of God, for the people of God. Finally, in thanksgiving, I recognize that God is the one ultimately responsible for changing lives. He can use the most polished sermon ever, or the most boring message ever delivered and touch the hearts of anyone He chooses. I ought not give in to any anxiety of not having delivered the sermon according to my personal expectations. Rather, in thankfulness and gratitude for the grace extended to me by the church, I should be cheered up. Indeed, each time I have people asking me to clarify what was my last point, I leapt up in joyous ecstasy: "Thank God, these people have been listening and not sleeping!"
My reader. What weighs you down these days? Is it because of some work done badly? Is it due to worries over the lack of time and resources to do a better job? Is the anxiety described by words of regret about the past that says: "I should have done this or that?" Or is it some kind of hesitation over the unknown future, that apprehensively solicits: "What if things go wrong? What if matters do not turn out as planned?"
The worries of the past is revealed by the IF-ONLY, or I-SHOULD-HAVE. The nervousness of the future is exemplified by the WHAT-IF's. May I suggest that we replace the fret over the past and the fears of the future with an attitude of thankfulness. Learn from the wisdom of Proverbs. The valley of disappointments of the past, and the hill of obstacles in the future can be countered with a simple kind and cheery word: "THANKFUL." We cannot change the past. Neither can we predict the future. Why not simply thank God for history (in the past), praise God for the mystery (of the future), and appreciate the reason why our current moment is also called the 'present.'
Sabbath time is an excellent opportunity to live out a life of thankfulness. It is not restricted to a 24-hour cycle, although there are benefits in doing so. One can practice a Sabbatical routine by placing appropriate breaks in one's lifestyle. Such a break can come effectively through pauses. A pause to give thanks during meals; a pause to give thanks when stopped at a red traffic light and to praise God for family; a pause to sing praises of thanksgiving while at a shower; or simply pausing our normal routine to call up a family member or friend and say "Thank you for being my friend/family." It is not difficult. One more thing. One can learn to give thanks and live thankfully, when learning to do the same first to God.
"If God asks that you bend, bend and do not complain. He is making you more flexible, and for this be thankful." ~Meriel Stelliger
Thought: What weighs you down? Perhaps it is not the big boulders of your life, but the little irritations that builds itself up to become an imaginary Goliath. Give it to God in prayer with thanksgiving in your heart.