Give yourself a minute or more to quiet down and be in the presence of God.Breathe deeply and feel the peace that comes upon you.
Paul and Timothy, writing to the Philippian Christians, say this:
Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 Good News Translation
These are worrisome days. COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways that we could not have imagined would ever happen to us just a few short weeks ago. I find myself scurrying around after morsels of hope that can aright our lives and assure you and me that God is with us in this time. Occasionally, I snatch a few words that speak to me at the moment and bring me the assurance that God is here now.
The other day I encountered the words of Dr. Larry Brilliant, renowned epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox and has worked to call the world’s attention to the threat of pandemics like we are experiencing now.
Dr. Brilliant, when asked by an interviewer if there was in any way a brighter side to what is happening to us now, said this:
“Well, I’m a scientist, but I’m also a person of faith. And I can’t ever look at something without asking the question of isn’t there a higher power that in some way will help us to be the best version of ourselves that we could be? I thought we would see the equivalent of empty streets in the civic arena, but the amount of civic engagement is greater than I’ve ever seen. But I’m seeing young kids, millennials, who are volunteering to go take groceries to people who are homebound, elderly. I’m seeing an incredible influx of nurses, heroic nurses, who are coming and working many more hours than they worked before, doctors who fearlessly go into the hospital to work. I’ve never seen the kind of volunteerism I’m seeing.”
I was struck by the image of God in these dark days helping us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. In that moment I felt the presence of God and a deep gratitude for what God is doing. God is shaping us to be grateful!
What other response is there to the civic engagement that Dr. Brilliant describes than gratitude to God who is making all these helping persons the best versions of themselves that they could be. Moreover, referring to the words of Paul and Timothy in Philippians, “asking for what we need from God” in this time turns out to be gratitude. Often it seems we think of asking God for what we need as that list of things that will help us. But God is already giving us these things through the people around us who are helping us. So what God is shaping us to be is grateful people who are already being taken care in so many more ways than we are aware.
It is in creating us to be grateful people that God will see us through this time!
I suggest that you find ways to discover the gratitude that God is already creating in you. A few of these may be:
- Begin or end your day with a “gratitude” journal or list of all of things that are happening in your life for which you are thankful.
- Use social media, phone calls, texts, emails, and even the fading art of writing a letter to say thank you. On every occasion we do this, we get to relive and lift up the goodness and best things that are happening to us. We feel God’s love through people whom God is making the best versions of themselves!
- Send a donation of whatever size you can give to those who are helping and serving others. Giving feels especially healing in these days.
- In your home group, sing a song or hymn of thanksgiving. Some of us remember a song of our younger years, “Thank you for giving us the morning.” You can find the words and music on the internet.
I’m sure you can add other expressions of gratitude to this list—and God will use each one to shape you into the best version of yourself.
O God who gives us life and keeps creating us into the best versions of ourselves, be with us in this time. Thank you for all of the persons who help and serve others and us. Keep them safe and healthy. Awaken us to the gratitude you are creating in us as we are helped and served by so many people we will never meet who yet care deeply for us. Amen.