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A Peace that Stands Guard

November 20, 2020 | Leah Lynch

30-days of gratitude challenges on social media. Thankfulness journals. Thank-you cards. Gratitude jars.

There definitely isn’t a shortage of activities or ideas revolving around gratitude this time of year. And, if any year needs it, 2020 would be that year.

But, what about the other 11 months of the year—the months that do not have a national holiday focused on giving thanks? What then? Where is our focus of gratitude? If any year needs it, 2020 would be that year.

Truth be told, though, is not that a need for every day, no matter what year it is?

Let’s take a moment and look at a fairly well-known guy in the Old Testament. Many of us have heard the story. The king says pray only to me. Daniel still prays to God. The king throws Daniel in the lions’ den. The next morning, Daniel is still alive.

I think we can agree that if something calls for thankfulness, not being eaten by lions definitely fits the bill. When King Darius comes to the den the next morning and he calls out to see if Daniel is still alive, Daniel responds with:

“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.” Daniel 6:22

Can you imagine the tone of his voice? I imagine it was filled with excitement and a very palpable sense of relief and gratitude. Even though it’s not specifically recorded that Daniel gave thanks, I have no doubt he did.

But, what about before? The back story of what got Daniel in the den in the first place begins with a group of guys who hated Daniel and his standing with the king. They convinced the king to make an (irrevocable) decree that for 30-days no one was to pray to or consult with any god besides the king. If they did, they would end up in the lions’ den.

Daniel knew what was at stake. The outcome looked grim. He knew, at minimum, there would be pain, most likely death. If ever there was a time to struggle with anxiety…

But look at how he responded. Daniel didn’t just plead for God to change his circumstances. He gave thanks, just as he had done before.

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 (emphasis mine)

Students and adults alike, we all live in this tension between joy and worry, between peace and anxiety. Even without COVID, we live in a broken world, a world of uncertainty, and sudden changes. It’s hard, but within that tension, peace comes when we make a shift in our focus. It is through gratitude that we are able to shift from a hyper-focused awareness of the struggle to a steadfast awareness of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Having thankfulness isn’t about dismissing the struggle. It’s about reminding us who is with us.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:4-6 (emphasis mine)

God’s presence is a game-changer. When we rejoice in the Lord, He is near. Our praise and gratitude usher us into His presence. Therefore, because the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything. Paul is encouraging us to take everything to God but to do so with thanksgiving. When we, as Daniel did, get down on our knees and pray, giving thanks, even in the midst of whatever struggle we face, we are given a sweet promise.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

A peace that guards. A peace that comes when we choose to be thankful. This peace isn’t just a gift that gives us fleeting warm-fuzzies. The original word for guard, phrouréō, means “to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel; (figuratively) to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard; in close connection with Christ; to hem in.” (https://biblehub.com/greek/5432.htm) That’s some pretty serious guarding.

God is for you. He is for your family. He is for our students. Thanksgiving is more than just a season. When it becomes a part of who we are and not just something we celebrate or do, we see the grip of the enemy dissolve. We feel the anxiety and fear begin to crumble. And all the while, we experience a peace that stands guard and hems us in.

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