Author and Blogger Ann Voskamp’s ongoing theme through her writing is the importance of being thankful in all circumstances. In this reflection she makes the connection with WHY ‘flexing your gratitude muscles is a vital coping strategy through a crisis.
The Secret Muscle You Need to Crush Fear, Seize Joy & Be Strong in a Crisis
By ANN VOSKAMP, MARCH 23, 2020
There’s no shame in saying it out loud: I am fighting off fear these days like kicking back an attacker in the heavy thick of night.
Because the only way the soul doesn’t get sick right now is to self-distance from fear — while having absolutely no distance between God’s thoughts and ours.
Because no news stories can steal the story of the joy found in the Good News — and if you let anything steal your joy, you let it steal your strength, and if there were ever days to fight for joy, these are the days.
I keep telling myself what we are all telling ourselves: Just one day at a time to go…
Because our baby girl has half a heart, and our son has Type 1 Diabetes, and those with underlying health issues like cardiac conditions or diabetes are most at risk to fall to COVID-19. And because staying home and staying flat on our faces in prayer is what can flatten this curve.
All social distancing right now is social togetherness…
All social-distancing right now is actually social-togetherness: keeping our distance from each other is the gift we give each other to get through this together.
- We all get to change how we live,So others get a chance to live.
And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think Isolation is restricted to the privileged.
- In many places in the world, the financially vulnerable aren’t rich with sufficient space to isolate, don’t have water at hand to wash hands, can’t shelter in a place because they don’t have a place.
- As we get to self-isolate — we can’t isolate ourselves from the needs of those who don’t get this privilege.
When I step outside every day for my exercise, I pray for those in healthcare, in delivery, in groceries, in essential services, who step outside of safe zones so none of us weather this crisis alone.
Though we are in uncharted waters — the One we follow walks on water.
Though these days are unparalleled in recent history — the One we follow stands at the Crossroads of all of history so we areunshakeable.
Though we are sheltering in our own places — the One we follow is our true shelter and safe dwelling place.
Though we may be here at home, we are praying about the world, to the One who holds the whole word, and this is our act of loving the whole world.
To stay strong in a crisis, you have to exercise your gratitude muscle.
A few weeks ago, I met a woman who fought for joy through a crisis by counting one thousand gifts, grace upon grace — and then found herself unexpectedly pregnant and named her newborn baby: Grace.
She held 27 day old baby Grace through a seizure that left the swaddled newborn with cerebral palsy.
The mother explained to her trauma therapist her practice of counting blessings. Her therapist responded.
“You are literally finding the strength to live through this crisis — because you have — just like a memory muscle — you have a gratitude muscle.”
A memory muscle means you’ve worked and practised a motion, so your body “remembers” what to do. In the middle of her crisis — this woman was already in the middle of strengthening her gratitude muscle — which was giving her strength. To stay strong in crisis, you have to exercise your gratitude muscle.
When you practice your gratitude muscle, your soul remembers what to do in crisis.
When you work out your gratitude muscle, even in crisis, your soul remembers how to move toward joy.
Exercise your gratitude muscle — to grow strong in joy.
From my window I can see church steeples pointing upwards in the middle of this quarantining and nothing could be more apt:
- Our churches may be closed, but now is when the church needs hearts wide open in praise and worship and thanksgiving.
- Our churches may be empty of worship and thanksgiving, but certainly not our days.
When the world shuts down — is exactly when our thanksgiving needs to rise up.
When the world shuts down, our worlds can grow quickly small — but gratitude for the seemingly small is the seed that plants the giant miracle in the midst of it all.
There is a way to live true to the bible’s call to give thanks in all things.
One of my high school friends tells me her freezer is stocked up and her husband is working from home. And because their young son has cystic fibrosis, their medical team advised their family of 6 to self-isolate indefinitely. Yet she says:
“So we are taking pictures every day — of all kinds of small things, small joys, smalls graces! Because I am determined to focus well enough to see God and His crazy grace — right here in the midst of the crazy time we are living through.”
How is it possible to give thanks while experiencing stress and fear? Out of a universe of supernatural options at the tip of His fingers — what does Jesus do? ‘On the night He was BETRAYED… Jesus broke bread & lifted it up & GAVE THANKS.’
If Jesus can give thanks in that — we can give thanks in everything.
If Jesus chooses gratitude as elemental in destroying evil — doesn’t that prove that gratitude is the best weapon to wield against the dark?
Every day I’m brazenly flexing my gratitude muscle by just grabbing a few pics with my phone, capturing the poetry of the ordinary — swaths of sunlight on the floor, steam rising off coffee, blue jay perched on a branch outside the window — so that in the evening, I can add them to my Daily Isolation Journal
And then I jot down right there for each day’s entry, 10 things I am grateful to the Lord for this day.
As the days stack up, the graces and gifts and gratitude stack up — and no matter what is shutting down, my thanks will rise up.
“And then? At the end of every month — or at the end of this season — you can export all your counted gifts to be printed as a bound book. Your own bound book that bears witness to God’s Love in the Time of Corona,” I tell my high school friend, scrolling through all my entries, all my pics of the poetry of the ordinary, all the gifts upon gifts. And no matter what is shutting down, nothing dare shut down our thanksgiving to God, our joy in God, and our worship of God.
Flex your gratitude muscle to fight off fear.
When, in the midst of these unusual days, jot down gifts you are thankful for.
Feel this gratitude muscle growing stronger, surer, more certain in moving the soul forward toward joy.
Exercise your gratitude muscle and you will see how everything’s working out — because you will see how God is at work.
And I can feel it, no matter what is attacking or overwhelming us in days like these:
Flex your gratitude muscle to fight off fear.
I can feel everything lifting —— like praises rising.