By Karla Dornacher
Looking for more joy in your life? Giving thanks may be the transformational tool God wants to use in your life to help you discover the joy you’ve been missing out on.
As an artist, I understand the concept of transformation well. My studio is filled with paint and brushes… colorful markers, pencils, and pens… everything I need to transform a blank canvas into a work of art… but if I don't pick them up… if I don't dip the brush in the paint… nothing happens. There is no new creation or transformation. I can't make something out of nothing without first picking up the brush or the pen and having some sense of expectation that something wonderful will happen when I do.
I was a young adult when I came to know Christ and began to understand His desire and power to transform my life. My very first Bible study opened my eyes to see God's creativity from the beginning of time and I was thrilled to learn that He wanted to continue His creative work in me and through me. It was like walking into heaven's art studio and having God hand me the brushes of His Spirit and His Word… truths that had the power to transform and create my life anew… truths that had the potential to change my life from one of chronic depression, anger, and self-pity into a life of love, joy, and peace. But… I also learned that I had to pick up these truths much like a paintbrush, dip them in the well of faith, and surrender the canvas of my life to Him in order to see the transformation take place.
That new believer Bible study was about the five elements of prayer: praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. As I grew in my knowledge of God, I was in awe of who He is, and had no problem picking up the brush of praise. But picking up the brush of thanksgiving was a little more challenging. The study was written for women and it suggested we give thanks for our husbands. Now I must confess that in those days I wasn't accustomed to giving thanks for much of anything… especially not for my husband. But because I was so desirous of pleasing God and being obedient to His Word, I knew I had to try. So I prayed and asked God to show me something… anything… to be thankful for in this man. (In case you hadn't guessed, our marriage was not exactly a happy one at the time!) But God is faithful and He heard and answered my feeble prayer.
I can still remember starting off thanking God for what I called the positives of the negatives… things like thank You God that he doesn't stop on the way home from work and get drunk like some of his co-workers and thank you God that He doesn't beat me or physically abuse me. And then it gradually turned into… thank You Lord that He gets up every morning and works a hard labor job in order to support us… and thank You that he chops the firewood so we can stay warm in the winter.
Over a matter of weeks of daily, out of obedience, thanking God for my husband an amazing thing happened. I actually became thankful for my husband… and my attitude toward him began to change. And then an even more amazing thing happened. Because my attitude toward him was changing, his attitude toward me began to change as well. Over the next few weeks and months I witnessed the incredibly creative power and saving grace of God at work in my heart, my life and in my marriage.
Giving thanks is just one of the joy builders and potential life-changers that you’ll find in Discovering Joy in Philippians… A Creative Bible Study Experience. But this one holds a special place in my heart and always reminds me of what God did to save our marriage more than 48 years ago.
God is faithful to His Word and He promises to transform our lives through the renewing of our minds but, just like any earthly creative endeavor we might pursue, we have to do our part. We have to make the choice to pick up the brush and dip it in the paint or pull out the thread and make that first stitch or dig the hole in order to plant the flower.
My hope today is that you will pick up the brush of thanksgiving and paint with confidence, trusting that the Lord will continue the work He has begun in you. (Phil 1:6) You are His masterpiece and He's not finished with you yet.