Recently I was in jail. No, – I wasn’t in trouble, but others were. And because of a God-ordained opportunity, the ministry I oversee was invited to create a Freedom Curriculum and to disciple inmates who are open to learning about the Lord. Basically, we were given a captive audience of 2000 + and we are teaching them how to be truly free – even while behind bars.
Paul is a great example of what freedom can look like even when our circumstances are crummy! Most of the letters he wrote to the churches were actually written while he was imprisoned. He was once even delivered from chains and set free while singing praises to His Lord!
Paul learned to navigate life with a heart of gratitude. He says in Philippians 4:12-13, “… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through HIM who gives me strength.”
So, how can we apply this principle to the inmates – or to our own lives? It begins with the realization that our very breath is a gift from God. Anything else falls into the “Bonus” category.
He didn’t promise us a bed of roses; but, He does promise us HIS STRENGTH to navigate the rough waters ahead. He actually tells us that they help develop our character.
I must admit, I would rather skip that part. When I am in the midst of a storm, I am often more interested in being rescued than in developing my character. However when I look back on those times, I can see how much I grew and I am thankful for those times.
So getting back to the jail, we are helping the inmates begin to view this season as a time for growth. It is a time to re-set their navigational charts using the right tools this time. They have changed their perception of the current situation and are thankful they live in a country that allows them to learn about God even while incarcerated.
The guards have commented on the amazing changes they are seeing. The inmates are shocked at the changes they are seeing within themselves! One inmate was stunned as she watchedherself walk away from a fight; and another totally amazed at how her language was changing. I told her that God was just increasing her vocabulary. She laughed! And all of it began with fostering an attitude of gratitude – learning how to see things through God’s eyes.
For John and me, who have begun to experiencing aging bodies,the Lord has reminded us to be thankful for the agility we DO have and to exercise it, rather than focusing on those things which we have lost.
What can an attitude of gratitude look like in your life? Be intentional and begin to make a list of the things for which you can be grateful. As you start to practice and live having an attitude of gratitude, you also can say, “I HAVE LEARNED THE SECRET OF BEING CONTENT.”