Doesn’t it sometimes feel like your world is completely out of control? Your circumstances are heavy. They don’t line up with your plans. It’s easy to start wondering where is God in the midst of all of this daily chaos.
We’re inviting you to join us for 4 weeks of gratitude, which could sound like another unneeded-to-do on your list in the midst of already busy days.
But honestly focusing on gratitude is exactly what we need when life is hard, complicated, and feels out of control. I know because Dennis and I have been feeling that a good bit over the last few months. As I’ve prayed and talked to God repeatedly about our circumstances, I’ve heard His Spirit remind me to give thanks.
He has reminded me to thank Him for the difficult people and the difficult situations, because when I do I’m remembering He already knows. I’m acknowledging He isn’t surprised. I’m thanking Him that He has a plan I can’t see clearly just yet. And most of all I’m reminding myself that He is working in hundreds, even thousands, of ways I can’t see or may never know because of an attribute of His called Providence.
Providence has been described as “the evidence that God has not left this planet alone in the vast universe or forgotten for a moment the human situation. God visits, touches, communicates, controls, and intervenes, coming before and between man and his needs. Providence is the ground for thankfulness.”[i]
Believing that God is providentially working in my life and your life, in my circumstances and yours, is a choice we make. Will you give thanks today for what God has allowed in your life? He does command us to “give thanks in all things,” even things that may not make sense now. He has a plan for your life. Will you choose to believe that He is at work?
Here are two ways to help you and your family focus on and practice being a grateful people this month.
- One way to grow thankfulness is to meditate on what God has done. At the end of this post and the next three Monday’s posts, you’ll find seven verses, one for each day of this week, to realign your heart for giving thanks. This week our focus is on giving thanks personally. It starts with my heart and my choice before I can influence my husband, family, and others. Focus on one verse each day to keep your mind and heart on gratitude.
- Another way to grow thankfulness is to learn about faith heroes who have gone before us who modeled gratitude well. One of my favorite thanks-giving stories is about William Bradford, who clung to the idea of providence in the midst of difficult days and unwanted circumstances. If you have children at home, I suggest you read this story out loud together with them, perhaps in the morning as they are packing lunches, at dinner, or at bedtime. Our kids need faith heroes and Governor Bradford is a good one for any child of any age. Even the child in us adults.
Does God really know what’s going on? Being Thankful for Providence
When William Bradford, the future governor of Plymouth Colony in New England, was just a boy he suffered great loss, more than any child should have to bear. When he was sixteen months old, his father died; he never knew the man for whom he was named. At the age of four, after his mother remarried and for reasons unknown, young William was sent to live with his grandfather. Two years later, his grandfather died and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. The greatest loss of his young life occurred a year later when his mother also died.
The Bible tells us that God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4), so we must believe that He was fully aware of all that was going on in young William’s life. What was God doing? Why did He allow such pain to fall on one so young and alone?
After being moved to his fourth home in seven years, William found himself living with two uncles in another village in England. They were delighted to have him as another worker for their farm. However, William’s trials were not over. He soon became sick and did not recover quickly.
In his long illness, we finally see a glimmer of hope that God was indeed in control. Because William was unable to do manual labor, he was allowed to learn to read and write—skills that very few commoners were able to acquire in the 1600s. William likely received his education from a local minister. Though his sickness left him frail and weak, by the age of twelve he had read many books from the pastor’s library, which of course included the Bible and books such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Ephesians 1:11 speaks of us who know Jesus, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. God’s providence—that He was providing William’s training and preparing him for future use—is clear to us now, though it was not so obvious at the time to him or anyone else.
William’s Bible reading drew him to God but also left him with questions. As a teenager, he was invited by a friend to attend another church in a nearby town. It was, however, a church that was viewed as opposing the Queen of England and so was somewhat risky to attend. There had been arrests of some who went to this church, which believed in teaching the true Word of God as man’s authority. In spite of his uncles’ strong objections, William chose to walk many miles each Sunday to attend this church. There he met Mr. Brewster, who mentored him in the faith and became like a father to him. Years later in 1620, Mr. Brewster joined William Bradford on the journey to the new world aboard the Mayflower.
God allowed William Bradford to endure a life of trial because in His providence God was preparing William for his future calling. That calling included leading the colonists of Plymouth as they journeyed over the Atlantic to the new world and then serving as their governor for over thirty years.*
Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans that I have for you.” God wanted William to learn to read and write, to learn to think and pray, so he could follow in the path God had prepared beforehand.
Do you believe God has plans for you that are no less significant than His plans for William Bradford? You might want to talk about this with your children or husband and then pray the prayer below. It’s similar to one William and the Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower might have prayed. Some of the words sound different from those we use in our prayers today, but sometimes it is good to pray using words written by someone else.
A PURITAN PRAYER
I believe Thee,
I accept Thy Word,
I submit to Thy will,
I rely on Thy promises,
I trust Thy providence.
Thy providence has set the bounds of my habitation,
and wisely administers all my affairs.
Help me to see Your providence in all that concerns me
And may I ever give You thanks.
Daily Gratitude Verses
As you think on gratitude this week, begin every day by whispering the above prayer and then read the day’s gratitude verse aloud. Focus on the “I” phrases, for they tell us how to practice gratitude. Then pray and ask to God help keep your faith in His all-knowing providence through every detail of your week.
We look forward to growing in gratitude together this month.
May God be pleased to see all of us more desirous of giving thanks in all things, every day!
As a reminder to you and your family to practice giving thanks, download this FREE Give Thanks banner. Simply cut it out, clip it to chain garland, and hang it over your mantle or kitchen window. Download the printable here.
*This story is taken from Growing Together in Gratitude, by Barbara Rainey, a read-aloud book for families. It is currently out of print but hopefully will available again in a year. Stay tuned!
[i] Walter A. Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 1988), 1791.
[ii] Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 296. Adapted.