We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.
Two recent articles – one on singleness and one on gratitude – got me thinking. The positive effects of gratitude practices, such as writing down a daily list of things for which we are thankful, are incredibly powerful and well-documented (example here).
However, there’s a kind-of catch – what we’re grateful for can’t be copied or compared to anyone’s list. It has to be our own genuine gratitude – things we are simply grateful to enjoy (big, small or tiny things or people all count!).
So how do these two articles connect? Well, I often imagine that when I’m in a great relationship with a mostly-perfect person and everything is beautiful in our Instagram life, then I’ll be able to be truly grateful. Thinking about what I can be grateful for right now is a harder task because I need to train my gratitude muscles.
Or the flip side: I often assume that XYZ person should be grateful because at least she has someone to do life with. At least she has a house to call her own. At least someone bought her nice stuff for her kitchen. At least she gets to have sex and children. At least she doesn’t have to answer questions about what went “wrong” that she’s still single. I’ve also heard this kind of language about men and women in dating. At least men can take action and ask women out. At least men don’t hear a biological clock ticking quite so loudly. And sometimes my own gratitude has taken this same problematic path: well, at least I’m not married to that person, which contains a hidden story about my own supposed wisdom in choosing a partner.
At least he or she or they…fill in the blank.
I was talking to my (younger, married) brother about this and he mentioned that “at least” statements are often clues to our heart’s idolatry. He might have gotten the idea from some guy named Tim Keller, but it’s still applicable. Bottom line – any time we set up an “At Least You Have” or and “At Least I Have” statement, we need to stop and think. Are we setting up something or someone (besides the one true God) who we think we can worship for our security and happiness?
I love how the Psalmists give concrete examples of trusting God. The psalmists aren’t setting their trust or gratitude in the frames of “at least.” There aren’t verses of…Well, I hope I win this battle, but at least I have a secret cave in case I need to hide later. Or those wicked rulers are so annoying but at least I have a week’s stash of vodka. Or everything is upside down in my world but at least I’ve got my 401(k) intact. There are so many things we find that substitute and prevent us from putting our full trust in God.
The Psalmists are clear…
Psalms 62: 1-2, 5-6 “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken. Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken.”
Psalms 27:13-14 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”
Psalms 34:1-3 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.”
Do you find yourself using “at least” statements? Take some time this Monday and ask God if there are any idols getting in the way of you completely trusting Him and having genuine gratitude. At most, we can trust His word!
In His Grace,