A while back, I found myself in a deep, dark, depressive sadness that I could neither explain nor escape. If you know me, you'll know that I'm not the type given to soul-sadness. I'm generally a pretty energetic, happy, passionate guy. But, there I was, filled with self-pity, fear, and anger.
Probably, I'm not the only one with emotions I can't explain. Probably, you've woken up on the wrong side of the bed before — maybe even for weeks in a row. Probably, you've been jealous of others whilst pitying yourself. How do you escape? How do you run away from these emotions which seem to have such magnetism to the hard irons which bind our hearts?
Psalm 50:23 speaks of the one who offers thanksgiving to God. He's the one for whom God prepares the way. I've developed a few habits that have really helped me, and I'd like to share them with you:
Let the First Words I Speak be "Thank You." Each morning (though I don't do this perfectly) I want the first thing I say to be, "God, thank you." Nothing has happened yet, but already I'm blessed. I'm alive again. I'm healthy again. I'm in my home with my family. I'm still loved by God. Food remains in the fridge, gas remains in the car, and I remain grateful. This keeps back that seizing sense of anxiety that attacks achievers like me for all the things that we have to do that day. It's also a great moment to grab onto some promises in Scripture with both hands and hold them tightly as I thank God for them.
Let the Last Words I Speak be "Thank You." Before I go to sleep, I'm working hard to thank God for what happened that day — good and bad. He's sovereign over all, after all. He's brought about the affairs of my day for my good. I'm learning that the difference between escaping life through sleep and enjoying life through rest depends on the bridge of gratitude I build throughout the day. This turns the mere unconsciousness of sleeping into true resting.
Instead of Cursing Hardship, Thank God for It. This one is tough. But, when I find myself dealing with something hard — which is frequently — almost nothing good ever comes when I curse it. I'm not talking about four letter words, here. Most of those have migrated out of my vocabulary. I'm talking about my attitude when the phone rings one more time, and all I want to do is ignore it. When I'm trying to do the right thing and the wrong thing is all I'm seeing. Again, God is sovereign, isn't he? He's always working my situation for my good and his glory, right? Why not say thank you, even through tears?
Instead of Worrying, Laugh. This one follows from the first three. I've found that if I'm rising to wake and falling to sleep with a thank you on my lips, and if I'm looking at hardship like grace wrapped in trial, then I'm free to laugh. Not to snicker, but to be marked by the kind of joy that enables mirth — that laughter of the soul.
This is what's working for me. Try it, and let me know if it works for you.