“I realized that gratitude is the key to joy”

I’d never really struggled with depression until a season a few years ago. It had been a dark year of betrayal, loss, major life changes, and spiritual warfare.  I couldn’t remember a time in my life so confusing and destructive, even compared to abuse as a young woman.  I remember telling my husband, “We stared EVIL in the face!” Heaviness, chaos, brokenness, rejection, lies, bitterness, deceit, wicked plans, division among God’s people…it reminded me of Proverbs 6:16-19:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

I wish I was exaggerating, but tragically it was my reality.  All I knew was that if I couldn’t hear God’s voice through it, I would feel hopeless.  This was unknown territory for me, as I was generally a joyful person who fought off the enemy by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace to me. This was more, much more. Was I ever going to smile and laugh again?  Was I ever going to genuinely find the joy of the Lord as my strength again?

I returned to His word (which I had been resisting), and a familiar scripture in Philippians 4:4-8 about rejoicing in the Lord and not being anxious about anything popped up. Honestly, it was the last thing I wanted to be told.  How in the world was I supposed to rejoice?! And not be anxious?! I realized a couple important parts to that scripture were that I was supposed to rejoice IN THE LORD! I realized right then and there I could do that. My circumstances were overwhelming but my God was faithful, so I started rejoicing IN THE LORD. I thanked Him for all He had done in my life, all He had provided for me, all He had shown me, and all He had helped me through.  My soul was filled with joy, not in my trials but in my Lord!  I realized that gratitude is the key to joy, and there is always something to be thankful for!

I also noticed that verse 5 also says, “the Lord is at hand” which I knew in my head but doubts had crept in. Was God really there for me? Yes, He hadn’t forsaken me in my time of need, but He was working on my life and so many other people’s lives concurrently. I started to see Him as a Father who guides me, and I was the child who didn’t see the big picture yet.  I needed to grab His hand, thank Him for being my Dad, and trust Him to guide me out of the chaos.  Was it THAT easy, not every day, but it became easier the longer I practiced the new habit of gratitude and thankfulness.

Then verses 6 and 7 say to pray in everything with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. If there was nothing else I felt thankful for in that dark season, I could always thank God for sending Jesus to die for my sins and returning some day to take me home. It gave me hope. Finally, verse 8 concludes by telling us what to keep our minds on, “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.” As hard as it was, I started to take time to do this and God’s light began to direct me out of the darkness. It took over 3 months for the fog to fully lift, but when it did God allowed me to see more of what He was doing during that trial.  There were a lot of tears shed, a lot of anger and hurt processed, a lot of forgiving and repenting at a deep level…and my joy returned! I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness rather than Satan’s evil.  My faith was stronger, my discernment grew, and courage welled up in me to face God’s plan for my future!

This is a month of Thanksgiving (but why not practice it every month)!  Try incorporating gratitude into your day several times.  Stop to thank the Lord for being your Father, for people in your life, your job, your husband, your kids, your home, your health, and whatever is pure, lovely, true, commendable, honorable. Peace and joy will return as you heal and focus on God’s faithfulness.

“Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.” Charles Jefferson

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