When I was a boy, I cared for a neighbors’ dog when they were out of town. To get to the food and supplies, I needed to find the key, strategically hidden under a rock. The thing is, anyone could have found the key but, they needed to know to look for it.
Scripture holds some keys for us. Some are hard to find while others are hidden in plain sight. The thing is, most of the time, we are not looking for them. We are looking for information to gain knowledge or, we are looking for easy unconditional promises God makes for us, so we forget to look for a key. Such a key is gratitude.
In our search for peace, we can easily overlook gratitude as a key. Jesus’ words were true when he said he gives us peace, not as the world gives, but peace that lasts, peace without lethal addiction and, peace without conditions. If someone gives you a new house and hands you the key, in what way is using the key a condition for having the house? Rather, the key is the means for entering in to abide and live and spill and do all the things that make a house your home. Giving thanks is such a key. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7New International Version (NIV)
These verses are great examples of how we can get stuck and forget to look for keys. Many people (I have been one) look no further than the first phrase and, they turn it into a rule: “Be anxious about nothing.” So your boss calls you into a mandatory one-on-one meeting or, your wife calls you from the emergency room, or your son is in an automobile crash with no details available and you feel like such a sinner because, here you are, anxious.
Take a deep breath and read the rest of the sentence. It says to take everything, every situation to God. Not only that, but bring along thanksgiving. Thanksgiving? What an unlikely response in fear inducing situations. A key, hidden in plain sight, that opens the door to peace that transcends all understanding.
By turning to gratitude, we honor God and, we shift our focus–to his goodness, to his faithfulness, to his character, to his promises. Like the child who wakes from a nightmare and cries out for Daddy, cradled in his arms we hear him say, “I have you. Don’t be afraid.” In that context “be anxious in nothing” takes on a whole new meaning. It is not about a rule, it is about relationship with the Faithful One who will never leave you or forsake you (even when your emotions say the opposite).
It has been said that in the Bible, thanksgiving always precedes a miracle. Read the story of Lazarus again and find the key of thanksgiving, hidden in plain sight. It was there all the time. We just weren’t looking for it there.