Dr. Jim Denison

‘Reframing’ our lives through gratitude

The last season of Fixer Upper started Tuesday. But Chip and Joanna Gaines's lifestyle empire will continue long after they leave their incredibly successful television show.

Remarkably, their Magnolia Market at the Silos is even more popular than the Alamo.

When they bought the property that is now the heart of their amazing business, few would have imagined that it would become what it is. But they engaged in "reframing," a psychological technique by which we choose to view circumstances in a different light. Chip and Joanna do this with each house they transform, turning what it is into what it could be.

Reframing is essential for every dimension of life in this fallen world. Consider the biblical injunction to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How can we be grateful in all circumstances, both challenging and joyful?

Note that the text does not call us to give thanks for all circumstances. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus; he sweat blood in Gethsemane; he cried out in lonely agony on the cross.

Rather, it calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. We can reframe any challenge, no matter how difficult, to find a reason for gratitude.

Consider three examples.


North Korea

On Monday, the Trump administration designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

We can be frightened by this escalating crisis. Or we can choose to be grateful for those who are working on ways to understand the threat and stop North Korean missiles.

Political angst

Rancor in American politics is more heated than I can ever remember.

We can be angry at the political angst in America, or we can be grateful that we live in the world's oldest continuing democracy.

The empty tomb

Let's close by considering the most heinous crime in human history. Twenty centuries ago, the sinless, innocent Son of God was illegally arrested, falsely accused, and unfairly condemned to die. He suffered a form of execution so horrific that it is outlawed in nearly every country on earth.

How could this tragedy be reframed into thanksgiving?

A minute's walk from Gordon's Calvary rock formation in Israel, where many believe Jesus was crucified, we come to the Garden Tomb. It meets every physical criterion to be the place where Jesus was buried. It was there that death became life and tragedy became redemption. It was there that history's worst calamity became our greatest victory.

The next time you feel that you are at Gordon's Calvary with no reason for hope or gratitude, reframe your circumstances. Walk to the Garden Tomb and remember that the God who can raise the dead "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

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