It was the year 2001. One of Rick's crappiest years ever. He was fired from a job he'd been working for over a year (a while for him). He was fired because there was missing inventory - an accusation - and a false assumption that it was him. His employer eventually confessed, but it was too late. A few months later, Rick was arrested and jailed for 3 days for possession and distribution of a controlled substance - crimes of which he was not truly guilty. He enrolled in college that fall, but never started. He just didn't know what he would do with his life. Finding work was impossible.
When Thanksgiving came, and the family decided to go around in a circle and name one thing we were each thankful for, it seemed like a great idea. There's always the default answers, "family" or "friends", but when it was Rick's turn, he didn't even say "pass". It was worse than "pass". It was his turn and he looked up and said, "Nothing. I'm not thankful for anything." As his wife of 4 years, I sat there in disbelief, "What?" I thought, and immediately took offense. "My life sucks" he said, and at that I walked quickly out of the room looking for somewhere I could weep. But I wept for him too. Everything shifted and awkward silence gave way to sadness in that living room. His ungratefulness was enough to change the entire holiday that night.
What did we expect? He was a candid man. It was his first reaction - his gut response to every unjust, humiliating or frustrating event 2001 sprayed in his face. He was trying to live a right life, a life for God, but it was so incredibly difficult.
What does God expect? What does he want from me in the middle of a crazy season? Stress? An argument? How does he want me to react? Can I vent my frustration? Should I discipline my child? Should I file a complaint? Cry for a loss? Scream in anger?
But first... It is his desire that I give thanks.
Even if it makes zero sense. Even if it feels forced at first. The giving of thanks moves unseen obstacles, just as removing a large stone from a riverbed allows the water to flow more freely there. His Spirit is, in a way, freer to move and bless the lives of his thankful ones.
Today that same man is a pillar standing tall for the transforming power of Christ. Rick is in two men's groups - one for Christian Businessmen and the other a Bible study led by a local district Judge - the same Judge that sentenced him over 14 years ago. Rick now speaks at churches and prisons and mentors people in drug court with a message of hope and potential. He went from a newspaper-thrower to a self-taught entrepreneur with a web design and consulting business. He is writing his third book and just invented an educational game. Do I need to say it? Gratefulness pours out of him! At Rick's men's groups he is often the first to speak about all God is doing in his life. And it sets the atmosphere.
Gratefulness paves a road in our hearts - a road that leads to worship. Worship full of respect and awe puts a huge smile on God's face. And when he is pleased, his heart is often moved to bless.
So if I'm stuck in a job that is demeaning, demanding, or distressing, if I'm feeling small or weak or not enough, if I believe that God is distant, or I've lost all control, there is one thing I CAN do. Believe me. It'll shift the whole atmosphere...
I will give thanks.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe,”
Hebrews 12:28 CEB
“Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 CEB
Chelan Russ has been a part of the movement since 2010. She now serves on the Rebecca Bender Ministries speakers team and is an active leader in Portland, OR. Look forward to seeing more from Chelan!