Updated: Feb 9
What is the most repeated command in the Word of God? Interestingly, it is not a “do or don’t command”, and it doesn’t involve money or immorality. Surprisingly, it is about changing our attitude. Jon Bloom summarized in his article on Desiringgod.org that God commands us most often to “Be happy.” The different commands that Bloom summarized with “Be happy” are: “Praise the Lord;” “Do not be afraid;” “Rejoice;” and “Give thanks.” Is this a command that can be applied right now? I think so.
Yes, our circumstances are challenging in our current state of affairs. I get it. But, I think God had to command us to not be afraid, to rejoice, and to give thanks because He knows it is not natural for us. God desires for us to adopt a positive attitude because He loves us, and He knows it will bring us joy. He wants what is best for us. If you have kids, how often have you told him or her, “You need to change their attitude?” or “You have an attitude problem?” I think perhaps that we, adults, have an attitude problem also. This attitude problem is leading us into a pit of negative emotions that is fed by the lies of Satan. God wants us to be protected from these lies and to be able to recognize the lies as such. Ann Voskamp has written extensively on the topic of thankfulness and the effect it has on our mental and spiritual health. In her research, she found that those who wrote down just three things a day that they were thankful for were less depressed, less suicidal, and less apathetic than those who did not practice thankfulness. Her research confirms that obeying God’s most frequent command in beneficial for each of us.
So, I challenge you, obey this command right now in the midst of ALL the difficulty of COVID-19. Although I mourn the intensive suffering, loss of life, hunger, and financial hardship of so many in our world, I see some blessings - actually many. God has feuded this perspective change in me by His Word and His Spirit. The first week we were on lock-down, I truly was frustrated and felt myself going a little “stir-crazy”. But, as I adjusted into the new normal, God’s Word helped my point-of-view change, and I was able to experience more joy in the midst of hard. I think the reason I was able to experience this was because I was intentionally thinking about all of the desirable changes that I had encountered. When I began being grateful, it produced joy. As I possessed more joy, I began to praise my Heavenly Father even in the midst of hard.
Is that something you want for your life? Please, come up with a list of things you can be thankful about during the COVID-19 crisis. If your kids are young, your list will look different from mine, but ask God to give you perspective on what can be celebrated in the midst of your demanding situation. I hope you’ll share your list with me below.
15 Things I'm Thankful For During COVID-19:
More Time. I live in a rather large city and often have a travel time of about 30 minutes to most of my ministry obligations. Just taking out travel time has given me a minimum of an additional hour each day - often more. I am only venturing to the grocery store about every 10 days and not running any errands. So, I am blessed with more time.
More Family. Both of my kids will be heading off to college in a little over one year. It’s been delightful to acquire so much of their undivided attention since they can’t go anywhere. The Holy Spirit has allowed me to see this as a “I GET to spend more time with my teenage children.” We’ve had some important conversations about the meaning of life but have also had some not so important chats about a funny meme they found. This extra time invested in my kids is allowing my husband and I to deposit more of a Biblical worldview and values into our kids during the limited time we have until they are no longer living in our home.
More Meals. With two driving children with jobs and extracurricular activities, we have to normally put in considerable effort to even sit around the dinner table together twice a week. We’ve been able to enjoy dinner together EVERY night and have had some meaningful conversations. We’ve reminisced about times when they were younger. We laughed with each other as we shared stories; we’ve connected on a deeper level.
More Games. Although we have watched our share of streaming programs and movies, we’ve also been intentional to have two-to-three game nights a week. Board games and cards usually result in roars of laughter in our home. Sadly, we often ignore the stacks of games in the rush of normal life. We've thoroughly enjoyed discovering the delight of games again.
More God. By saying “more God,” I am not saying God was ever any less than He ever is which is mighty and all-powerful and all-knowing, but I have been intentionally spending more time with God. With the additional time (see above at “More Time”), I have been really pressing into God by intentionally lingering in His Word. This gives me peace as I am reminded of His character and attributes. It helps me to be thankful as I remind myself of His faithfulness and goodness to the Israelites, New Testament believers, and to my family. Because I am purposeful to study Him, His presence in my life enlarges and the challenging aspects of my circumstances decline. God becomes bigger and my circumstances become less.
More Health. Obeying the COVID-19 order for our family has caused us to consume our meals at home - no fast food from the drive-through and no restaurant meals. So, because of that we’ve eaten home-cooked meals that have less preservatives, more nutrients and less fat.
More Prayer. With the crisis and so much uncertainty, I think most believers are turning to God more for answers and protection. I have been intentional to not only pray more myself but also organize other prayer times with groups. The fellowship and intimacy with God and others has built me up and reminded me that God is faithful even when we are faithless.
More Exercise. Most of us find ourselves taking advantage of extra time to sweat and build our physical endurance. Even my teens, who rarely exercise, are working out with our home equipment and enjoying family walks. It doesn’t seem so stressful to squeeze in a workout when it is done at home and we have extra time.
More Outside. Weather permitting, our family has walked outside almost daily. The walking trails in our neighborhood are packed, when they are usually desolate. I see families walking together, biking together, creating sidewalk art together, and all sorts of other outdoor activities.
More Memories. Primarily, I am building memories with my kids and husband but also some sweet memories of fellowship with other believers because of intentional time invested in others.
More Sleep. Because I have been given the gift of time, I can sleep in an extra thirty minutes to an hour each day and still be able to fully invest my time elsewhere. Sleep also helps me improve my attitude!
More Investing. Doing ministry remotely has given me more time to invest in the spiritual life of others.
More Connecting. I’ve been able to take advantage of time to call or Zoom with friends and family members that I don’t normally connect with. As a people person, this increases my joy.
Less stress. I am not rushing around between activities. Almost all of my regular activities have continued, but just in a virtual manner.
Less Expenses. I know there has been tremendous loss of income, but I do see a few places where we are saving money. I haven’t gone anywhere, so I am not spending money on gas. My gym is closed, so I am saving the gym membership fee. We are saving money by cooking all meals at home.
Choosing to focus on the positive in the midst of circumstances that seem dim and overwhelming is part of what enables the Holy Spirit to strengthen me (1 Timothy 1:12) and helps me persevere through the COVID-19 challenges.
What are three things you can be grateful for today?