The Reason Behind 10,000 Reasons: Beyond Our Control

There is an obvious connection to my less-than-stellar mood over the past few months, and I need to look no farther than my own posts. I began a daily pattern of sharing my reasons for gratitude, my blessings, after reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. Three years ago my youngest son had been able to list hundreds of blessings in a classroom exercise based on the same book. Listing 1,000 reasons for joy, for gratitude, shouldn’t be that hard, right?
With patience and daily observation, I made it to 1,000. What an accomplishment! Externally it was an accomplishment, but internally I noted no significant change. Where was the irrepressible joy? Where was the bubbling laughter for every day? Why had my lens not changed? Reaching this emotional and writing plateau left me unsatisfied. The next inspiration came to me while singing along to Matt Redman’s song “10,000 Reasons.” Yes, that was it! I should push the boundaries, go farther than others have, and reach for 10,000.
This time I would add a layer; I would add roots. In order for a blessing to make the list, it would have to qualify with a base that could be found in Scripture. I continued my quest and was pleased to find that so many of the blessings connected to Scripture. Then I sputtered. Then I stopped. What gives?
There were two weeks out of this year when the blessings flowed freely from my fingertips. I could see them all day and in every situation. God’s goodness was apparent. There was only one problem: I cannot afford to be out of the country all the time. When I traveled to Honduras I experienced rich blessings. I saw God’s goodness all over the people, all over my days, all over the country. When I returned to the “comforts” of home, I was strangely unsatisfied. All that I have or may hope to have was failing to help me see God’s goodness.
Because the wrong person has been in control: me. Or at least I have believed the lie that I am in control. Gratitude has never come from what we can give ourselves. You may appreciate the food on your table, but how grateful are you if you are the one who put it there? If you fix a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, you may feel blessed, but is it the same as what you feel if someone gives the entire meal to you? How much gratitude do you experience if you expect that there will be no Thanksgiving meal but then someone blesses you beyond what you can repay? Maybe we have been wrong all along; maybe it is better to receive.
In the story of Joseph found in Genesis, Joseph had to manage the the wealth of blessings as well as the stress of famine. In managing the famine, Joseph was first able to collect all of the money the people owned. When the people ran out of money and still needed food, Joseph collected all of their livestock. Once again the food ran out, and Joseph collected all of the people’s land. They had nothing left. And even what they had, the seed they had been given, was expected to be returned to Pharaoh to the tune of 20%. What would you imagine their response to be? They have no money, they have no livestock, they have no land, and they have a 20% tax. Bitter resentment? Anger? Despair? How about gratitude? ““They said, ‘You’ve saved our lives! Master, we’re grateful and glad to be slaves to Pharaoh.'” (Genesis 47:25, MSG)
They were grateful?! They were. You see, sometimes we need to be stripped of what we think we have in order to appreciate what is really there. This is nothing new, but it can be incredibly difficult if you have lived a life that allows you to think that you have made it – you have arrived – and you have provided. Please learn the lesson voluntarily before you are forced to do so: God is in control, and God is good. When you allow yourself to believe that you have provided the good things in your life, you miss out on God’s grace. You have not earned it. You have not deserved it. But God gives anyway.
Take these two things away from this: 1) Count your blessings as those things that you have no control to provide; learn to recognize grace. 2) Give in ways that cannot be repaid. If it is true that we appreciate the blessings we cannot repay, then we ought to share that same opportunity with others. When you receive grace – and know it – you cannot help but share it with others.