In 2005, I opened a blank journal and scratched out a sentence on the first empty page.

Thank you for our lives and the lives of our sons.

It was all the gratitude I could muster. After two years of church planting, I was lonely, drowning, sick at heart. On one day, Mike would hold our family’s heads above water; I’d buoy us up the next. But I feared the day we’d both wake up on the bottom — the day our eyes would meet with matching despair.

I feared the day we’d give up.

I don’t know if I read this verse at the time, but God was speaking it to my spirit anyway:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).

Scripture calls for us to keep watch in many ways: to watch out for temptation, to watch out for our faith, to watch for Christ’s return (Mark 14:38; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Matthew 25:13).

But there is another kind of watching that keeps us moving, keeps us working, keeps us continuing steadfastly on in prayer. There is another kind of watching that helps us keep up a conversation with God when we feel like no one’s talking but us.

It is watchfulness with thanksgiving.

This kind of watchfulness seeks hard for the ways God is answering our prayers apart from the solution we’ve scripted. It looks fervently for Christ in the details, because He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). It knows there is never a moment that He is not answering our prayers, because He promised He is at work to reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20).

Watchfulness with gratitude is looking for God in places beyond the one where we’re longing to see Him.

I wish I could say I’ve kept that journal faithfully over the years. Instead, it’s been an intermittent altar — a place I stumble back to when things are impossible — to confess my sins, dig up my blessings, and hunt for the beautiful, unfathomable kindness of our God.

It is my watchfulness with thanksgiving, a record of hope in the darkness, an archive of His faithfulness.

It is the story that God has been the One holding us up the whole time.

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Psalm 59:9