If you have ever struggled with a spirit of cynicism, lack of thankfulness or even loss of joy, this book may help. If you have ever felt that there is nothing beautiful in this world and no real fullness to life, then this book will have you looking at it differently.
Ann Voskamp starts by telling us about the death of her sister in what is a terrible tragedy and really hard to read if you have experienced your own tragedy in life. She explores two concepts most of us are familiar with: suffering and disappointment. She concludes that life with all its sorrows builds in us a brokenness of heart caused by loss and pain.
“Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency.” ― Ann Voskamp
Voskamp comes to believe that ingratitude or a lack of thankfulness is at the heart of our inability to enjoy the fullness of life over time. She writes as her struggle concludes “what has scraped me raw: ungratefulness.” Her remedy, then, is to restore thanksgiving into her life and as a start, she challenges herself to make a list of one thousand gifts of God’s grace.
“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”
“Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle.”
― Ann Voskamp
Thanksgiving as a spiritual discipline – is vitally important and yet unpracticed by many believers. Scripture teaches us that we are to be characterised by thanksgiving. If you are not characterised by thanksgiving and a joy that comes with that, then Ann’s challenge of listing 1000 gifts is a good start.
I believe joy and contentment is attainable if a Christian is focused on the goodness of God in both the big and the small things that God has given us. Not just salvation and forgiveness, but the little day to day things which we take for granted. Thankfulness is a cure for depression and other such emotional ailments like unforgiveness, bitterness, anger – I can personally testify to that, so the over-arching point of this book hit its mark with me.
It took me to well over 300 things to be thankful for in my personal list before the discipline of being thankful in everything finally sunk to my hard head and then gave birth to joy.
“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”
― Ann Voskamp,
This book helped me to come to that point.
But one thing I must mention about Voskamp’s book was her unique poetic style of writing. I am aware that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. You either like it or you don’t! She uses language in unexpected and highly descriptive ways, creating pictures and images in your mind. She swops words around and uses them in ways that read more like poetry. Anyone who writes regularly will enjoy her play with words, but for the average person it may be a bit much. She manages to create pictures and produce raw emotion in her stories, I found this emotion at times constructive, at other times quite distracting and off-putting.
Either way, she teaches a good principle. Thanksgiving as a way of life.
If you are reading this book to learn about the discipline of thanksgiving, then yes enjoy. But to be honest I found it hard to get past the halfway mark in the book. What I did not enjoy is that towards the end of the book I found the images a bit exaggerated, at times even bordering on mystic. There are times where the experience of nature was too closely bound with the experience of God ( a teaching known as panentheism) and here the book lost some momentum for me. In the final chapter her experience of intimacy with God was described in highly sexual terms, even sexually climatic language and for me this is where the book lost its appeal and I chucked it down. I felt that it took the whole husband and wife imagery in scripture a bit too far and the lesson or principle she wanted to teach fell flat for me.
So, in conclusion, if you are going to read this book, embrace the lesson learnt in thankfulness. That said, there are some other gems I have taken from this book which are worth holding onto, such as:
I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, like in the wake of all the rushing… Through all that haste. I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
“Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is.”
Are stress and worry evidences of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, to keep gaze fixed on God?
“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”
While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.
“Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.”
“Manna today or I starve.”
― Ann Voskamp
Let me know what you think.