On his blog, Dr. Tony Evans once made a very important distinction:
“God says to give thanks in everything. That doesn’t mean you need to give thanks FOR everything. You don’t need to give thanks FOR that bad day. Or FOR that bad relationship. Or being passed over at work. Financial hardship. Whatever it is – you are not to give thanks FOR the difficulties, but rather IN the difficulties. That is a very important distinction, and one I think we often miss. Giving thanks IN everything shows a heart of faith that God is bigger than the difficulties and that He can use them, if you approach Him with the right heart and spirit, for your good and His glory.”
I am continually growing in a very strange kind of awareness. There is something I keep seeing. It pops up in the most unexpected places. I can’t help but notice it all around me. It’s grace.
You see, I used to pay attention to what was going wrong. When things were going well for me, I took it for granted. But the minute things turned sour, I perked up. I began to worry, to blame, to criticize and to control. I thought that if I tried hard enough, did things right enough, things would always turn out well. Boy, was I wrong!
Ever since the Fall, the world has been broken. Sin entered the world, and sin likes to break stuff. It breaks automobiles and appliances. That’s not gremlins, it’s sin. Sin causes weeds to grow up between the rocks in my driveway. It causes cancer cells to grow in previously healthy bodies. Sin causes death. Death of trust, death of connection, death of relationships. Sin creeps into homes, schools, workplaces. It breaks creativity, spontaneity and self-confidence. It breaks my ability to recognize what is true, even when that truth is so obvious it could smack me in the face. Sin even broke my ability to realize that I was in desperate need of a savior. I missed it for 22 years. The natural drift in this world is always toward sin, and things are constantly breaking.
That’s a really important fact to recognize, because if I minimize the impact that sin has, I lose sight of how amazing God’s grace really is. I remain blind to the evidence of him that surrounds me. He is everywhere: in my car that started today, in the fact that my ankle didn’t twist when I walked down the stairs, in my ability to write this devotional. It was by God’s grace that I was able, at age 22, to recognize that I needed the forgiveness and life that Jesus offered. It was by God’s grace that I was able, earlier today, to forgive someone else.
The tendency in this world is for everything to fall apart, and every time it holds together, that is evidence of God’s grace. We can do nothing good without his empowerment. When I fail, that’s to be expected. When I succeed, that’s not me. That’s grace. I can’t help but be grateful when I am aware of how present God is. I can’t help but celebrate every time I notice that what should have dissolved into chaos actually brings healing and joy.
Jesus told his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Today, take heart. Jesus is victorious over sin, death and brokenness. The evidence of him is all around you, if you will only choose to see. Let your awareness of his grace lead you into a life of gratitude.