I could read the Psalms all day, they capture the human emotion for each occasion and show us the raw relationship we can have with God. I was reading this morning in Psalm 50 and a phrase stuck out to me, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Much like some of the motivational books and conferences we put our attention to encourage us to do, we often have to force ourselves to be positive and thankful (especially on a day like today, when many have lost their lives in Las Vegas to an evil act). Whether you are like me and have a daily digital reminder telling you to be thankful, name your cell phone alarm something that reminds you or just have it down pat to be thankful first thing in the morning, it is not natural to be thankful.
I love Psalm 50: 14 because we are told to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The truth is that unless it costs us something to be thankful, we may never realize how good God really is. It is easy to be thankful for the good things, to count the blessings as they happen, I know it is for me. What is most difficult is when I am offended or hurt by someone or something and I pause in the moment to thank God for the lesson, the pain or even the love He shows us. I am not heavy into speaking positively into the air so that positive rains down, but I am a firm believer that when our thankfulness or positive words are aimed and focused on God, it builds our relationship with Him.
Sacrifice implies and is defined by loss, something we give up. To be thankful in moments that are painful, we give up on our pride, we lose something that was actually holding us, prisoner. We need to be able to go through pain with a measure of grace, but freedom is always available by sacrificing our pain on the altar of thanksgiving. Not only should we be intentional about being thankful daily, but we should be aware of thankfulness when we are tested the hardest. It is more than just the cliche of finding your glass half-full, but it goes further so that we are actively searching for Him in our painful circumstances.
How? I know for some they feel like they just need to repeat positive stuff to God in prayer until they believe it, but for me, it is rawer than that. I remember when a dear friend of mine was in an awful accident. I felt the pain so deeply that all I could do was lament for days, but I noticed breakthrough when I ran out of lament and had no more energy left but to just call on His goodness for the coming days. I sacrificed the entirety of my lament, I offered it to him until it became thankful. Perhaps my interpretation of this scripture is short of the glory, but in my experience, I have had to empty myself of complaint and lament until it turned to thankfulness. This takes time, it takes relationship.
So, do not be discouraged if your times of prayer are filled with tears, doubts, complaints, and pain, as long as it develops into thankfulness. Too often we take a little time to complain or list out the issues, but we take little time for God to speak back. The more time we take to listen, the more thankful we become. It is ok to let God know everything you feel, and when you empty all your feelings, He fills you with thankfulness.