“Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul,” poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. Hope, as she describes it, is a gift that simply comes. No matter how dark or cold the storm, hope gently finds us, warming us and singing a wordless song, but never expecting anything in return.
Dickinson’s poem, for me, offers a lovely image of the unexpected ways God’s grace finds us. We might sometimes think of experiencing God’s grace and being grateful in return as something we have to do. So when we’re struggling, we feel guilty, thinking we should make ourselves feel happy when we’re sad, or optimistic when we’re discouraged.
But I don’t believe this is what the Bible means when it encourages believers to always “be thankful” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As Paul explains, the hope we find in Jesus is always a gift. We praise God, not based on how we’re feeling, but “for the glorious grace he has poured out” (Ephesians 1:6), because we’ve been “united with Christ” through His Spirit (Ephesians 1:11,14). Each day, no matter what we’re going through, we can experience the Spirit making us into “his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18), creating beauty even out of our ashes.
And as we experience the wonder of His power, grace, and love flooding our hearts (Ephesians 1:18), we can’t help but praise Him. As theologian Karl Barth once put it: “Grace evokes gratitude like the voice of an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning.”
Whether our lives feel peaceful or chaotic, sunny or so dark we can hardly see the light, may we draw near to God and the “incredible greatness of [His] power” (Ephesians 1:19). And as His hope meets us in our storm (Ephesians 1:18), we may find ourselves singing a song of praise.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 1 Kings 3:16-28
Read Philippians 1:7-11 and reflect on how spiritual growth can emerge from both peaceful and difficult times.
When have you felt God’s joy and grace unexpectedly “flood” your heart? How does experiencing God’s grace lead to compassion for others?