When I was little, my mom wouldn’t let me complain about things. She would redirect my complaining energy into thankful energy.
“Mom, my sister won’t clean her side of the room.” – “Thank Jesus that you have a sister. And stuff. And a room. A lot of little girls aren’t that blessed.”
“Do I have to eat squash agaaaaaaain?” – “Thank God you have food, honey. And a mom to cook it for you. If you don’t like it, you can make dinner tomorrow.”
“My feet hurt from walking around all day at Disneyland!” – “Aren’t you so glad you got to come to Disneyland? Remember all those rides you go to go on? We need to say thank you to Jesus for letting us come and to your grandparents for paying for our tickets.”
Whenever I didn’t know what to pray for during family prayer times, my parents would say, “Just tell God what you’re thankful for.”
Example 1: I’ve noticed that even as an adult now, I have a “default setting” of gratitude. About a year ago, after dance class, my feet huuuuuuurrrrrrrrt. I sat down in my car and breathed a sigh of relief and immediately started telling God, “Thank you, Jesus, for feet and new pink shoes and dance class.”
I texted that to my mom, and she responded, “And thank God for a car that works so you don’t have to walk home from dance class, money to pay for dance class, and a home to go home to.”
Example 2: Several months ago, my carpool buddy got a new job in a different part of town, so I no longer had someone to distract me from the fact that driving 12 miles takes 45 minutes if I’m going to get to work on time. After a couple of months of trying to ignore my irritation at traffic and trying to be content on my own, one day I was just like, “You know what? I need to stop complaining right now.” So I started out with, “God, thank you for a car – a cute one that works. You didn’t need to provide me with a car, but I’m thankful that I don’t have to ride the bus or worry every day about my car breaking down (like I did with my last one).”
And that turned into, “Thank you for a job to drive to, two roommates to come home to, freeways to drive on…” And over time, that turned into a time of praying for my roommates, family, Bible study girls, coworkers, etc.
Example 3: It’s been a similar but more lengthy process to discover thankfulness in singleness. I’ve gone through phases (months, years) in which I find no reason to be thankful for not having a man of my own. I’ve tried to ignore my singleness or drum up the strength on my own to be content. Those are the times in which I was most miserable.
The older I get, and the longer I’m single, the more I find to be grateful for. And the happier I am with my single status. Here are some things I’m grateful for in my singleness:
- Independence with my money
- The opportunity to live with two godly women who point me to Jesus
- Not having to cook for a man (or at all) regularly
- Not having to shave my legs in fear that they’ll scratch my bed partner
- The freedom that comes with having my own room (I haven’t shared a room in almost 13 years, and it’s still exhilarating)
- Being able to hog the entire closet and all the shelf space in the bathroom
- Sleeping through the night without having to get up for fussy kids
The list goes on and on and on…
But the biggest thing that I’ve been thankful for recently has been how much my singleness points me to Jesus. I blogged a bit last week about all the times I run to Jesus because of my singleness, and I could add to that list: Can’t find anything to be thankful for? Run to Jesus.
It’s taken practice and a lifetime of listening to my over-thankful mother, but I’ve gotten to the point where this is (usually) the case: something bad or frustrating leads me to Jesus, Who leads me to thankfulness, which leads me to Jesus, Who leads to contentment, which leads to thankfulness, which leads to Jesus.
The part that’s easy to get stuck in is the “something bad or frustrating.” It’s easy to think in moments of despair or ickiness or discontentment that “If only I could fix this on my own, then I wouldn’t have to let Jesus see my gross feelings.” But the faster I run to Jesus, the faster He gets rid of those feelings – and 90+ percent of the time, it’s through thankfulness.
“God, my roommates aren’t cleaning the kitchen; I just know that if I had a husband instead, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.” – “You’re welcome for the roommates. And the kitchen. And the food. And the dishes that get dirty when you eat food.”
“God, I’m tired of wondering who my future man is going to be. Can’t you just show me already?” – “You’re welcome for the reminder to pray for your future man.”
“God, I can’t find anything to be thankful for in virginity. My hormones are NOT happy right now.” – “You’re welcome for hormones that work right. And for never being molested. And for never having had a bad relationship. And for the opportunity to run to me.”
Conclusion: The truth is, there is always something to be thankful for. Even when I get caught up in the sadness of the fact that my closest sister died 10 years ago; even when my friends and loved ones are making bad decisions that I’m helpless to stop; even when singleness seems like a gift without a gift receipt or return policy – I can ALWAYS be thankful for Jesus.
Jesus took on hormones and emotions when He came to earth as a man (Hebrews 4:15). He took on my sins and bad decisions when He died the death I deserved on the cross (I Peter 2:24). He embraced my helplessness and vanquished my despair when He rose from the grave (Romans 6:4). And He promised to banish sadness and all my tears with His very presence in heaven (Revelation 21:4).
I have found that to be a very, very good place to start – and then thankfulness for the rest of His blessings flows from there.
Even if I hope the particular blessings of singleness don’t last forever.