Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
as we thought of Jerusalem.
2 We put away our harps,
hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
3 For our captors demanded a song from us.
Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
“Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
4 But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a pagan land? Psalm 137:1-4, NLT
The psalmist asks how can they sing songs in a pagan land, in their tears, among tormentors–it comes just after psalm 136, a song of thanks, and the refrain is still fresh in my head.
Give thanks to the Lord.
While it’s not part of today’s reading, a verse in 1 Thessalonians 5 comes to mind about giving thanks in all circumstances. In rough patches in life, I didn’t know how to give thanks for awful things that happened. It was a huge disconnect for me: I was supposed to be thankful for (loss, betrayal, hardship)? I tried to work that out in my head and felt like I had this Christianity thing kinda wrong. How come I couldn’t be thankful for (it)? Were other Christians able to be thankful for their hardships? At some point it occurred to me: I didn’t have to be thankful for it, but I could be thankful in it.
While I wasn’t thankful for (heartache), I was thankful for my two children who’d eagerly climb onto my lap to hear a story. I was thankful for a good cup of coffee and warm socks on my feet. For chocolate in the freezer and friends who stood by me. On the hardest days, it was finding thanks anywhere I could that kept me afloat. God never failed me. He would dazzle me with sunrises (Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:5, NLT) and surprise me with beauty in the world.
It started as a little list of little things. Of the ones I’ve numbered, I’m nearly at 6,000.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
All these little things show me that even during the roughest patches of my life, God covered me. (23 He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever. 24 He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:23-24, NLT) He was there with me. My life wasn’t defined by the awful things, shaped certainly, but not defined. When I look back at the trials, it’s a trail of counting blessings. To think I could have kept a running written list of everything that had been wrong. My life would tell a very different story.
Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.
8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:7-8, NLT
Thank you, Lord, that you work out the plans for my life, for your faithful love endures forever.
My gratitude list was inspired by Ann Voskamp at www.aholyexperience.com.