Emotions come and too often I feel bound to them. The anger, the envy, the discontent and far too many others. There was a time when I thought all I could do was succumb to them. So I tried to control them. This only led to disaster. I tried to subdue them. This only made them multiply too fast. I tried to “take every thought captive”…all too often out of my own strength. That’s when I started learning about giving praise. When I turned my attention to thanksgiving, discontent was swept away. Envy was turned to rejoicing at having what I do have especially when I remembered those concrete homes of East Asia. This has become a discipline for me. It started with a little pink journal writing down all that I could think of in those moments of emotions too overwhelming that seemed to turn my affections from the Lord. We are commanded to rejoice.
Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
But what about when I didn’t feel like it? How could I ever learn to do that? I learned that one emotion drowns out another. I learned that by choosing to rejoice in something right in front of me drowned out the negative emotions of jealousy, greed, self-pity. Maybe this is what Paul was getting at. It isn’t that we elevate the gifts over the Giver but when we see the gifts of the Giver, our mind and affections are then turned to the Giver in which we rejoice! That is grace in every day life…all around us…all the time.
And discipline, it doesn’t come naturally. I still remember learning to ride my bike in the church parking lot. My dad holding my seat as I took off. It was something that had to be learned. Yet,we always use the phrase, “It’ll come back to you like riding a bike” and never remember that we had to learn how to do that. All too often during that learning process, I ran crying to my mom because of a scraped and bleeding knee. Now after trudging through and choosing to give thanks, this discipline of gratitude has become like sweet music to my soul. I have a weapon on my belt when the monster threatens to engulf me. The Bible promises that we are not alone and there is always a way of escape. Gratitude has become a way of escape for me from those ever pressing sinful emotions. Now I can say that it has become like riding a bike.
I have also learned to give grace to myself when I do hit a bump and I fall off…that is inevitable. Part of learning discipline in any area is learning how to apply grace. I used to think that I could master something in order to move on to the next thing that I needed to work on. However, I am learning that there are so many disciplines that I want to work on and that you never truly master them this side of Heaven. This represents the demanding need we have for a Savior. Yet these lessons stay with us when we gird them to our waste, when we learn them over and over, when we continually have to come back to Him.