Giving Thanks in Lament

Ten years ago a Canadian blogger quietly released into the world a book that would remain on the New York Times bestseller list for 60 weeks running and sell more than 1.5 million copies in more than 20 languages around the world. In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp chronicled the journey of learning to give thanks in all things, of writing down the ways God masterfully orchestrated the details of her life — even hard, painful things — for her good and His glory. 

Her book launched a movement of men, women, and children learning to be grateful in seasons of ease and of lament. Social scientists jumped on board, did new research, and discovered that gratitude is a healthy practice as it combats depression, reduces anxiety, improves relationships, and brings contentment even in the midst of chaos.

During Christmas vacation 2011, I joined my two sister-in-laws and my mother-in-law in reading Ann’s book and started my own journal to record 1,000 gifts from my Heavenly Father. Through the simple act of putting pencil to paper and seeing God’s hand in all things, God was transforming my heart, ridding me of deeply-rooted selfishness, covetousness, discontent, depression, anxiety, and bitterness. Throughout the exercise, I kept returning to Paul’s exhortation to the believers in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

God was filling me with His peace, which I would need just 80 days into my gratitude journey as my father-in-law suffered a heart attack and went home to Jesus at the age of 66. My extended family and I were able to count the blessings God was bestowing upon us even as we lamented. We could say with confidence:

As we’ve been studying the final commandment from Exodus 20 and once again reviewing Psalm 19, I’ve been reminded that thankfulness to God is often the antidote we need for covetousness. As we practice gratitude, we pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Psalm 19

You can start your own gratitude list in a journal, on sticky notes, or on the provided template and see how the act of acknowledging what is good and hard and from the Lord can bring great joy in the midst of all things as you turn your eyes upon our God. Today we’re providing a template to get you started.

— jls