Choosing Contentment and Gratitude

Lucy gazing out the window

“Inhale peace; exhale gratitude,” says Julie, the yoga instructor, as we settle in for our yoga practice. Deep breathing is a way to calm yourself if you feel an anxiety attack coming on. Deep breathing is also a way to calm yourself after a hectic day helping your body relax enough to sleep at night. I enjoy repeating Julie’s mantra, “Inhale peace; exhale gratitude,” as I do deep breathing on my own. In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells the church in Philippi not to be anxious. In verse seven, he speaks of the “peace that transcends understanding.” In I Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says to “give thanks in all circumstances,” so the second part of the mantra “Exhale gratitude” also goes along with Paul’s teachings.

Charlie with his ugly monkey

Furthermore, Philippians 4:8 promotes positive thinking to help us let go of our anxiety and find peace. To help me with that, I keep a gratitude journal in my nightstand. After a particularly rough day, I force myself to write down three things for which I am thankful. Admittedly, my dogs often make it to the list. However, since my students come from third-world countries, I often find myself writing down things like indoor plumbing and reliable electricity.

Indoor plumbing

Still, I find that pausing to breathe as I repeat to myself, “Inhale peace; exhale gratitude.”is the best way to slow down my inner turmoil and the negative chatter in my hear. I have to actively choose to follow Paul’s teachings. I choose contentment and gratitude.

Weathering the Storms

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Photo by Tamara Pittman

Mark 4:35-41 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

When I’m in a stormy part of my life I actually don’t pray for God to calm or remove the storm. Instead, I ask God to stand with me and help me weather the storms of life. Let me explain why I choose this sort of prayer.

  • First, if you notice in the account of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was sleeping through the storm. The disciples woke him–not the storm. Also, notice that Jesus asked the disciples why they were so afraid. This indicates that the storm was not upsetting to God who can control the wind and the waves. Therefore, if God is with me in my boat of life, I have no cause for fear. He can control the situation and I should have faith in his ability to calm the winds and the waves when needed.
  • Secondly, I believe God knows how big to allow the storm to get before he intervenes.

1 Corinthians 10:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

In this letter written by Paul, most scholars agree that the word temptation is used in the sense of testing. God knows how much to test us and provides us a means to withstand the storm. Therefore, I try to maintain faith in his judgement when life’s storms rage. The Bible gives us examples of other faithful people being tested–the most extreme example being Job.

  • Thirdly, sometimes, we wonder why we are being tested, but I recall that the disciples asked Jesus that question about a man who had been born blind.

John 9:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

I may not understand the purpose of the storm I am enduring, but again I must have faith that God has a purpose.

In conclusion, although the storms of life may rage at times, I remember that Jesus asked his disciples,”Do you still have no faith?” Then, I decide to have faith that God is in control of the storm, provides a way for us to endure the storm, and has a purpose for the storm. Therefore, I ask God to stand with me during the storm. The storm itself may not dissipate. However, I feel a calm and a peace within my heart.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, plant, outdoor and nature
Photo by Tamara Pittman