Although we are unable to hold any regular services in our Prison Chapel, I have a lot of guys who regularly come for a time of personal prayer and pastoral support. Throughout the day I also make sure that there is a Worship CD playing quietly in the background. Earlier this week the song that was playing as I walked into the Chapel was, ‘I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter His courts with praise’, and for those who are now singing along, it concludes with the words, ‘He has made me glad’….
One of the guys who was in the Chapel at the time said to me, ‘What have we got to be glad about??’ The previous day the Prime Minister had just announced that we would be going into another National Lockdown, and we, on the outside, were preparing ourselves for further restrictions, but life inside the walls would be virtually unchanged – ‘lockdown’ literally means ‘locked down’! So, I could understand his comments, and it was easy to agree with him.
However, when I got home my Daily Bible Reading Notes for that day reminded me to ‘Count my Blessings’!!! In the current climate, I’m more inclined to do the opposite and ‘Count my Gripes’!!! – God has a lovely way of keeping us grounded!”
I was reminded of the fictional children’s story, Pollyana by Eleanor H Porter.
The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, an eleven-year-old orphan who goes to live in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont, USA, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna but feels it is her duty to her late sister. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centres on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her missionary father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the Christmas barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because she did not need to use them.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Chapter 4 of his letter to the Church in Philippi to:
‘Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise’.
I believe this is more than just an exercise in ‘positive thinking’, but more about encouraging us in the way that we react.
The words of the Chorus of the Old Hymn, encourage us to ‘Count our Blessings, name them one by one… and it will surprise you what the Lord has done’.
It’s so easy to overlook God’s daily provisions, yet gratitude is foundational to my relationship with God, as it changes my perspective. To always be ‘full of joy in the Lord’ is a struggle for me, because it’s so easy to be filled with cynicism and despair, especially in the current situation.
I know for many it’s a real struggle with how things are at the moment; but can I encourage you (and especially myself) to begin this New Year with a ‘Heart of Thanksgiving’ – The Psalmist tells us to ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts. Enter His courts with praise’.. In spite of everything, we can still, every day, begin to ‘Count our Blessings’ and have an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ for what God has done, is doing and will do for each of us.
May God strengthen you with HIS love, fill you with HIS assurance, bless you with HIS peace, and hold you in HIS arms as you trust HIM with every detail of your day….