thankfulness

Podcast 029 –
“Seeking Contentment In Singleness”
|| The In-Between Series with Jess and Amanda ||

Welcome friends,

What do you do when you’re dissatisfied with life? Like you’re in a ditch and can’t get out or feel like staying in the pit you’re in? Portland millennials Amanda and Jess have experienced this, too, and want to encourage other single women to find true contentment in Christ. Listen along as they share personal stories, insight, and wisdom in this first episode of the three part series they’re calling, In Between.  

 

Scripture References

“And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” Philippians 4:11-13 GNT

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NLT

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24 NIV

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:3-4 NIV

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 NIV

 

Steps to Finding Contentment

  1. Begin on your knees. Ask the Father what’s going on deep in your heart and in your mind. Ask Him to show you if there are deeply embedded roots of sin that are causing poor fruit/discontentment to grow. Ask Him for vision and to reveal Truth from his Word that will replace lies of the world and from the enemy. Ask Him to humble you to hear and respond to what He has to say.
  2. Focus on the Word. Take time to meditate on Scripture. Memorize passages for recall when you’re feeling discontent or discouraged. Print the resources below and put them up around your home or tuck them in your wallet. Make sure you’re staying in the Word, and consider joining a study or group to hold you accountable.
  3. Ask For Insight. Talk to trusted friends, mentors or parents and ask them if they see patterns that contribute to your state of discontent. Invite others to come alongside you in the journey. Be willing to share your struggles and receive their words of wisdom/encouragement.
  4. Practice Thankfulness. Make lists of things you’re thankful for each day. You may want to keep a journal and record prayers of gratitude. These remind us of the good things God has for us in our lives when we’re struggling to see it.
  5. Consider Others. While it’s important to understand, acknowledge, and deal with personal trauma, loneliness, and disappointment, too much time focusing on the self can leave us bound to discontent. Begin looking for opportunities to volunteer and share your gifts/resources with others. Pray for people, bring a meal to someone, and find places to serve. Make plans and engage in the community around you.

 

Quotes, Articles, Songs and Resources to Help

Sometimes we need a little outside encouragement finding contentment in Christ. Amanda and Jess shared some songs and articles they found helpful, along with suggestions for clinging to the Word of Christ through meditation and memorization. Click on the links below for direct access to these resources.

There are free printable scripture cards available from us here at Arise (a gift from artist Anna DeRoos of She Letters Truth – Just tap the images below for the printable PDF) as well as some for purchase through The Daily Grace Company.

We don’t always get to choose our situation, but we do get to choose how we think about it, how we shape our hearts in it, and how we come to God in it. 

Pursuing contentment right alongside you,

Jess and Amanda

 

About Our Hosts:

Originally from the Bay Area, Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Jessica obtained her undergrad from Biola University in Psychology and her master’s in Counseling Psychology from California State East Bay, and since that time has been a recruiting coordinator with a large banking company. An extroverted introvert, Jessica has a huge heart pull towards facilitating Christ-honoring and truth-filled discussions with women of all ages in the church. It’s her deep desire to seek the welfare of the city through her hope-filled heart with the abilities and gifts God has generously given her.

 

 

 

Amanda works as cardiac ICU nurse and moved to Portland three years ago. She has a heart to see the great commission carried out in the city and around the world. Her heart is for encouraging the Church in the written word of God and the great joy on the other side of obedience in our walk with the Lord.

The Traps and Treasures of Thankfulness

The words and verses are superimposed over photos of flowers and cornucopias, then plastered onto mugs and magnets: Give Thanks! They’re carefully calligraphed across reclaimed-wood wall plaques: Be Thankful! More than that, they’re repeated over and over in our Bibles. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 

As Christians, we’re well aware of the commands for thankfulness, and we can’t finagle the translation of any Greek words to get out of it – Although I sure wish I could some days. 

For me, the idea of thankfulness comes with baggage. It can feel invalidating, fake, or saccharine sweet when contrasted with the often painful and bitter reality of my daily life. 

Do you ever feel that way, too? 

Sometimes I think this might be because I’m understanding thankfulness wrong. Let’s look at a couple misconceptions about thanksgiving that many of us get trapped in, and then we’ll dive into the heart of Biblical thanks.

Thankfulness Does Not Mean Ignoring Pain

This is big. It only takes reading a few Psalms (Psalm 12, 86, 94) to see that even our loudest songs of praise can also be filled with heart-wrenching cries of lament and sorrow. This is important to say because cheerful church cultures can unknowingly wield thankfulness like a weapon, silencing our suffering to avoid the discomfort of grief or doubt. 

“How are you?” they ask. “Too blessed to be stressed! God is good!” we respond with a weak laugh, choking our pain down a bit deeper – A dull weight sinking heavy in our bellies where we hope no one will discover the real us, yet desperately hoping they might try. 

As we enter our prayers with God we might do the same – Offering up a bright but hollow Christianese version of ourselves, hoping we might appease Him, unsure if He wants to know the real us (hint: He does!). 

In the mental health world this is known as Spiritual Bypassing, which means using spiritual words, ideas, or practices to try to skip right past the hard and holy work of facing traumas, woundedness, or even just reality itself.  

Spiritual Bypassing is a hollow positivity, and it isn’t true thankfulness. It eventually leaves us lonely, ashamed, and disconnected from God, others, and ourselves. Like the spiritual equivalent of an Instagram filter, we avoid authenticity and connection. This kind of grasping does not equal gratitude. Rather, as you plum the sorrows of your soul and the drama of your days, come to God with all of it. 

Thanks-giving is holistic, so thank God for what you are thankful for and cry with Him about the areas that hurt. Bring your whole self and your whole story to the table. God formed you in all of your strength and fragility, and He loves each and every aching bit of you.

Thankfulness is Not Comparison

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…’” Luke 18:10

As usual, the hyper-religious Pharisee in the parable above gets a few things wrong. And sadly, as usual, he reminds me a lot of myself. The Pharisee is looking at things, at other people, and at himself instead of looking toward God. Basically, he’s comparing. 

We might think we’d never fall into this same self-sufficient trap, but how about this: “Eat your dinner and be grateful! There are starving kids who’d love to have what you have!” Raise your hand if you’ve heard (or said) this phrase. I know I have. 

But is it thankfulness we are fostering, or comparison? Is it thankfulness we are fostering or smug superiority wrapped up in a spiritual bow? Does it make us thankful for what we have, or thankful that we’re not like those poor starving children

Like Spiritual Bypassing, this kind of thankfulness is hollow, focusing more on things than on the Giver of All Good Things (James 1:17). This can sometimes be subtle or seem benign, but when we look at someone else’s plate, we’re always at risk of falling into the comparison trap and puffing up our own ego instead of truly thanking God. In the parable, Jesus goes on to describe another person who came to the temple that day. This one, the tax collector, prayed differently, crying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus goes on to applaud this man because of his humility. 

Humility is, without question, the rich soil of thanksgiving. 

If Biblical thankfulness isn’t Spiritual Bypassing or comparison, what is it? And how do we live it out? Let’s look now at the heart of thankfulness.

Thankfulness is Relational and Responsive

God doesn’t need our compliments, so when He tells us to be thankful, it isn’t to stroke His own heavenly ego or to tack on to our spiritual agenda. What God wants, what He always-and-forever wants, is a continuously connected, intimately loving and redeeming relationship with us (Ephesians 2:4-7). 

Thankfulness is part of a reciprocal relationship as we revel in and respond to His movement in our hearts and in the world around us. Just as we become closer to our friends, spouse, or children when we actively look for and call out the things of beauty in them, we will find more intimacy with God when we move away from a to-do list and move into awe and wonder at the God of love, creator of sunsets and the Milky Way. 

Although gratitude for gratitude’s sake is a healthy discipline for all, God is calling us to something much bigger and deeper. He’s calling us into relationship with Himself, giving both roots and fruit to our faith.

“Tune my heart to sing Thy grace” is how the hymn-writer puts it. Thankfulness is the grace-singing response to our attunement with God. It baptizes the mundane and bursts up from worldly waters dripping with a heavenly hymn.

So what does that look like in the often bleak and busy reality of our daily lives? For me, It  means that as I go throughout my day, I simply (though not always easily) look for the holy of God. Sometimes this comes naturally and other times it’s more like what Hebrews 13:5 calls a “sacrifice of praise.”

When I’m with friends, I belly laugh and marvel at the God who created humor and joy. 

His image is carved into each and every person we encounter. 

Isn’t He beautiful? 

Thank you, God. 

On cold, rainy nights when I’m waiting and waiting at a bus stop, wishing I was at home, wishing I wasn’t in pain, wishing desperately that life had worked out differently, I cry to God and thank Him for His presence. 

I thank Him for seeing me and for being a God who knows about suffering and aloneness. I may or may not thank God for my chronic pain and the ways He has redeemed it in my life. I’m not always thankful for that. But I can almost always be thankful for the way He meets me in the crushing middle of it, offering His love in both the stillness and the chaos of my suffering. 

And later, as I watch my tenth cat youtube video for the night, I ask myself what these videos say about God. Who must He be to have created an animal as over-the-top, facetious, furry and fun as a cat? It might sound silly or trivial, but cats can lead us to thankfulness, too. Even if you’re a dog lover! When we look for God with humble parts, we are sure to find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it like this:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Humbly pay attention. 
Look for beauty. 
Look for God. 
Even in the darkness, you might just find you’re standing on holy ground.

Respond. 

Take off your shoes.

Thank God!

 

About the Author: Alyssa Zimmerman, like you, is incredibly loved by God. She anxiously offers up her cynicism, fear, and mustard-seed-faith in return. Constantly amazed by grace and relieved by redemption, Alyssa pursues truth, love, justice and Jesus in the midst of disabling chronic pain which has shaped the vast majority of her life and foiled her dreams for college, career, and a family. Instead, Alyssa became a high school dropout, living in poverty and pain, forced to spend most days in bed with an icepack. Nevertheless, she is committed to the great and messy work of therapy and mental health, wishing deep-down healing and wholeness for all.

At home among the trees, the mountains, and the drizzling rain, Alyssa is a PNW native. She is passionate about living vulnerably, wrestling with the hard questions of faith, and pushing beyond the confines of our modern western evangelical culture in the hope of better understanding the fullness of God’s love and more indiscriminately extending it to all. She is a great lover of wit and silence, watcher of documentaries, drinker of tea, and excessive taker of mediocre phone pics.

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