I read a book two years ago called “1,000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I bought the one that had a place in the back to list your own 1,000 gifts. Each day I challenged myself to write down three things I was grateful for. There were days when I forgot and there were days that I listed more than three and then there were days I had a hard time coming up with three. But, the cool thing that happened was I started looking for things that God was doing around me or in me. I started focusing on “the good” instead of “the bad”. It took me over a year to fill in all those gifts and when I finally finished, my mind had been transformed to look for the good and the positive. I felt this incredible happiness inside. I learned first hand that focusing on the things God was doing or giving me was filling me so much joy and peace. Susie Larson states, “Because circumstances all around us beg for supernatural intervention, people are not interested in clever-sounding stories. They want to be healed and restored. They want to be an eyewitness to God’s majesty; they want to experience His power, and they want to know victory. They want to know that the Jesus you talk about is alive and active and willing to change lives.”
When I read those sentences I said, “Lord, I want to be healed and restored. I want to be a witness to what You are doing in my life and in others’ lives. I want to experience your power and I want to know victory. I know that You are willing to change my life and I ask You to do that.”
Now, I have to tell you that because I struggled so much with depression and anxiety, it was very hard for my mind to focus at first on the good and not the bad. Anxiety and depression can make your dark feelings even more magnified. I feel like the culture we live in makes it even more difficult to focus on the good things in your life. There are so many bad things that happen all the time and the media makes sure you hear about it. Not to say we shouldn’t, but if that is all you are hearing, then it is hard to look for the good in any situation. I had to train my mind to start looking for the good and listing my 1,000 gifts really helped.
One of the many things I learned while listing my gifts was I needed to be thankful for everything and I mean everything in my life. Now, I know some of you are wincing right now and thinking, “I can’t be thankful for…” But, I am here to tell you that you can get there eventually. It took me over 50 years to get to the point that I was thankful for my issues with my Dad. I was a victim to many abuses from him, but because of God’s great love, His truth, His words, His patience and His spirit living in me, I was able to get there. It wasn’t easy and I fought God along the way. Once you can get to the point that you can say, “Ok! I am grateful for all that happened to me because it has made me who I am. And through it all, You were there. You stayed with me and opened my eyes to the gifts You were giving me despite the pain,” you feel like you are experiencing a miracle. Now, please hear me, I am not saying abuse is okay. It isn’t! But, God can take that abuse and make it into something beautiful in your life as He draws you closer to Him. I know that is hard to understand, but He can. He can redeem all those years of pain and torment. He has done that for me.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. When I was going through my darkest times, I was journaling. I was writing down all of my feelings, all the things I was learning, all the scripture I could find, even movies I watched that had spiritual meaning to them. I have notebooks from the last 15 years of my life. I have been able to go back through them and share a lot of what I learned with you. To me, that is a miracle because when I look at who I was then and who I am now, I am amazed at the person I am today. The Lord has been my strength through the whole process. To be perfectly honest, there were many days I didn’t think I was going to make it. But by the grace of God I did! I had many people praying for me and loving me along the way. And because I hung in there, I am able to share with you all the things that God has taught me and shown me. The depression mostly has lifted but the anxiety is still an issue for me off and on. I have begged the Lord to take it away, but I have also learned that if I still have it then I have it for a reason. I have to trust that He is in control and He will enable me to handle whatever happens. He does allow bad things to happen, but He is always there and He uses those bad times to draw me closer to Him.
I want to be like Job and say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21
When I started this journey I decided that I needed to study about God and His nature so I went to the Old Testament. I studied as much as I could get my hands on and I found out that His nature is not to attack us or harm us. He loves us with an everlasting love. He watches over us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants to lead and guide us. Now, I know you are thinking, “But, bad things happen to us.” And I can say you are right! But when those things happen, God is there for us. I still don’t like it when they do happen and I kinda freak out at first, but then I go to the Lord and pray and talk to Him and He seems to calm me down. When the panic starts rising up again, I go back to Him and start praying and talking to Him again. I read scripture and I try to focus my mind on His truth to me.
Life is not easy. Life is full of things that knock us down and make us want to quit! I want to be real with you and say I understand how hard it is to live this life on earth. But, I also want to tell you that the only way I have survived it is having a relationship with the Lord. I have had to work my butt off to spend time with Him and get to know Him. It is like having a relationship with anyone else, except you can’t see Him. And if people catch you talking to Him they think you are crazy because there is no one there! Ha Ha! (Yes, it has happened to me more than once!) I like to talk out loud to Him because it makes Him feel real to me. You can get to the point where you will laugh with Him and tell Him silly things. I really feel like He is my best friend. I can tell Him anything now. He knows it anyway, so sometimes I say, “I know You already know this, but …” Yes, I am crazy, but God loves me anyway!
So, I would like to encourage you to start listing the gifts God has given you. Get a notebook and start writing them down. I even started looking forward to each day so I could look for the gifts He was giving me. Then, I would recommend praising Him for all your gifts and eventually praising Him for all the things that have happened that you might not consider a gift at first. The day that I was able to write down that I was even thankful for abuse was one of the most memorable days of my life. I felt like I was finally on the road to recovery and that was the most beautiful feeling in the world! My abuse became a gift because it brought me into a relationship with the Lord that I treasure and value. Dear friends, something beautiful can come from something ugly. I pray all of you can find that treasure!
Until next time and if you see me out talking to thin air, you will know who I am talking to!
John 9:3 “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Beth Moore, “No matter what life- or Satan himself- hands us, the favor of God has on His children causes that “lot” to tumble out on the table in such a way that instead of destruction the child will discover that her portion turned into destiny one trusting step at a time. When all is said and done, she will see that the portion God assigned her was good. Right. Rich. Full of purpose.”