Keeping a Heart of Gratitude in the Midst of Hostility
Life has been more of a prison to me lately. I have been held captive by my anger and feelings of insecurity. The former is a means of defense against constant criticism, blame and disrespect. I wish to untangle myself but just as it is painful to leave the source of such anger and insecurities literally, so it is to let go of my anger. If I let go, then what? Would I be protected from further hurt?
So I draw insight from the legendary men of the Bible. There's Daniel. It is written of him that he was down on his knees before the Lord three times a day to express his gratefulness (Daniel 6:10). What was there to be thankful for? Yes, he was one of the elites of his time, but still, he came from a captive land and his enemies were all around him. When jealous colleagues plotted for his demise, Daniel remained true to his daily appointment with God despite of the threat of death. Why?
In my present situation, I can only say, because Daniel needed God. He needed Him so much that he can't even miss one of his meetings with God. That's how I relate to his situation. With enemies who are doing their best to get you, and having proven God to be faithful, you cling to Him. And that's what Daniel did.
Then there's David. He kept asking God, "How long?" "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" (Psalm 13:2) "My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?" (Psalm 6:3). He was tired of the constant struggle of making sense of others' displeasure of him. He cannot understand why they are in pursuit of his life. Not understanding, David was depressed and lonely. And in his depression and loneliness, he found God. And God found him. God found David with a heart determined to trust and obey Him. A heart that was determined to stay grateful, believing in faith that God has his best interest at heart. In his gratefulness he even wrote and sang praises of God's enduring love. He refused to hang up his harp.
I wonder if I can do that. My prayer is more conversational with God. I cry and beg Him for help. I ask for mercy. At times I hear Him. Other times I keep praying believing that He hears. Sadly, though, I have hanged up my guitar. And when I do get to sing (because I am afraid to sing out loud for fear of being cut down to pieces---I'm too loud, I'm too noisy, Why don't I give other people peace?, etc.), it lifts me out of my sad state. But even though I do these things, I still feel like Hagar wanting to run away from my present circumstances, from the people who bring on these feelings of anger, anxiety and insecurities.
Hagar was caught in a twisted domestic scheme of both her master and mistress, Abraham and Sarai. God promised the couple an heir. But doubtful that the promise would be fulfilled in her old age, Sarai took matters in her own hands, gave her slave, Hagar, to her husband so they can produce an heir. It didn't matter if Hagar agreed or not. She was a slave. She had no voice, no identity of her own that was separate from her mistress.
Eventually, Hagar ran away after she was treated so horribly by Sarai. Being so alone, pregnant, without protection and no one to turn to, she stumbled through the wilderness. But Someone had seen her and finds her. The question resonated to her broken heart, "Where are you going, Hagar, slave of Sarai?"And in that moment, Hagar knew she was not invisible. She was seen and had seen the 'God who Sees me'.
God does see what is going on in my life. He sees the tears that I shed when I can't openly express my frustrations. He feels the heartaches as I slowly watch my world crumble around me. He knows my longings for peace, acceptance and love. He understands my fears for my children and my dreams in leaving them a legacy of unwavering faith. And I can only do that if I keep on keeping on in gratitude to Him.
The reason why many Christians lost their way on their journey to God's heart is, they fail to keep a thankful heart. One writer once wrote, "If we keep the Lord ever before us, allowing our hearts to go out in thanksgiving and praise to Him, we shall have a continual freshness in our religious life" (E. White, Hidden Treasures, 85.)
Jesus knew that He was going to die in the hostile hands of the very people He came to save. Yet, He fulfilled His mission unwaveringly, even when His heart was broken. We may be living in a hostile environment, but it doesn't even come close to what He has gone through. Just as Jesus kept Himself on His knees in prayer during the few hours before His crucifixion, being on our knees in situations of hostility will keep us grounded, our hearts steady, knowing that God sees us. It is the secret of keeping a heart of gratitude.
And sing. He is worthy of praise despite of any situation we are in. He is still God. And He remains good!
I'll probably dust off my guitar and start singing again. Nobody stays angry when singing praises to God. Or anxious. Or insecure. Or better yet, I might find me a space where I can sing freely--- free from fear of disapproval, judgment and care. We'll see where this heart of gratitude takes me...