Gratitude is recognizing my lowly place before a Holy God. It’s allowing myself to reflect on the growth God has cultivated in me and the many blessings He has lavished on me.
What I love most about the way our sweet Heavenly Father works, is the way he breathes life into our stories and allows us to share them to produce thanksgiving in the hearts of those around us.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin to express my gratitude to God for all He has given me, but what I keep coming back to is God’s gentle molding of my heart, his patience with me in my misunderstanding, and his constant faithfulness especially amidst my unfaithfulness and doubt.
This semester, as a sophomore, has already been radically different from last year. I’m more committed, more invested, and even more tired. And because of this, I’m craving more control than ever-- control over my thoughts, my doubts, my frustrations, my grades, my relationships, my friendships, my life. But the more I try to hold my life with clenched fists, the more I realize the lack of control I truly have. God has done a work in my heart that has produced a spirit of gratitude by doing three things: strip me of my control, take away my pride, and fill my heart with Truth.
Much of my story is all too similar to that of Peter’s. When Jesus beacons Peter to come out on the water to him we see Peter’s first glimpse at his desire for control in Matthew 14:28-31:
“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”
As Peter begins to walk towards Jesus, he turns his gaze to the wind. His confidence turns to fear when he realizes the weight of his circumstance. But Jesus, in his love and affection, grabs Peter and saves him from drowning and asks him a simple question. “Why did you doubt?”
Peter knows exactly who Jesus is. He knows his power and his authority. So, why did he doubt? Marie, why do you doubt?
Peter loves control. I love control. When Peter realizes what’s going on around him, he panics at his lack of control. Instead of fixing his gaze on Jesus, he lets his fear overtake him. And in his desperate need, he cries out for help. Grace pierces Peter’s heart the moment Jesus takes his hand and Peter is filled with great awe and a new understanding of God’s love.
I can’t help but sink in my chair when I read this. This is me. I know who God is, yet, I often let the chaos surrounding me keep me from fully focusing on Jesus. But I hear Jesus whisper sweetly to me, every time I do this, “control belongs to me, Marie. Let me take care of you.” Here, I surrender my control, by God’s grace.
Peter, later on, denies Jesus three times even when he was so convinced that he would never do such a thing. His pride is taken from him when he recognizes the weight of his sin in Luke 22:61-62:
“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Peter is devastated when he hears the rooster. He is confronted with the consequences of his actions, heart-broken at the choice he had made over and over. He wept bitterly, it says. Oh, the number of times I have sobbed over my disobedience! As my heart began to sink lower, the more I was able to see God the way He was meant to be seen. The more I could see of the character of God that allowed me to truly be thankful for all He is.
Lastly, Peter was filled with truth. Truth that God is in control, he is above all things, and that his plan for Peter’s life was to fight for the hearts of those around him and bring God glory. As a result of this, Peter experiences the fullness of the peace, purpose and joy in Acts 12:
“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.”
This is where we see Peter fully confident, trusting and unshaken by the things going on around him. Peter SLEEPS in between two soldiers and he’s chained up! He’s SLEEPING! Oh, how wonderful it is to see Peter’s heart completely changed since the day he stepped out on the water! How is Peter sleeping? Because Peter isn’t doubtful anymore. He not only knows the power and authority of Jesus, he has experienced it and the Truth has set him free from the chains he bears and the death that might come. He doesn’t need control, he isn’t bound by his pride. So, Peter can sleep.
And now, I sleep REAL hard. God has opened my clenched fists and his placed in them his overwhelming devotion. And my heart rejoices and overflows with thankfulness!
Thank you, God for the intimacy we get to experience when we can surrender our control and our pride!
Jesus, thank you for the way you displayed your love for Peter even in the midst of his lack of faith. Thank you for doing the same for me. Thank you, God, for your relentless pursuit of me even when I don’t give you my attention. I surrender my control, my pride, and my life. Do with it what you desire!
“The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simple-hearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
Be at rest, once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.”
Jesus is calling you to come out on the water to him. Will you trust him?