A few years ago, during a difficult season in my life, I was really struggling with my thinking. I often seemed to be discouraged and negative. Now, before this season I had been a very optimistic and encouraging person. But God was allowing me to go through a dark season and was using it to refine me. I had to really learn gratitude, especially in difficult circumstances. I had to remember to trust in God's character and promises. One day, when I was crying out to God for help with this battle in my mind, He asked me to remember what I was grateful for. He asked me to write down everything I was thankful for. So I did. At first, I couldn't think of much so when I thought I was done, He prompted my spirit to keep writing. He did this every morning until I realized this was to become a habit for me. Sometimes, I'd get frustrated thinking, that's all I can think of to be grateful for today God! But there was always more when I waited for it and kept my mind on gratitude. Each morning, I made long lists of all of the blessings in my life - from the clean and warm tea to the many relationships throughout the years, including with the Lord Himself. Eventually, my perspective began to shift as I remembered who God is - His love, faithfulness, provision, forgiveness, kindness - and that He had given me more than I needed (including training me through the current trials). I began to overflow with thanks to God and joy began to be restored to my life. I was understanding 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
We are actually warned in the Bible about the consequences of not giving thanks to God. Romans 1:21-32 says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened...They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator...They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy." These verses reminds us that if we do not give God thanks, eventually we will become foolish, selfish and wicked. How important is gratitude to God in humility!
I have discovered that one of the best ways to cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude is to remain thankful by daily writing it down. Regardless of how small or simple, spend time each day (I find morning is best) thinking of everything you can to be thankful for! Notice the birds chirping instead of noisy neighbors, the green lights instead of traffic, the people you have the opportunity to be kind to instead of those who are rude to you, the health and energy you have been given instead of what you don't have, the comfort of your living place - it's better than sleeping outside in the dirt (unless you like to camp like I do). By choosing to remain grateful our perspective changes. We are humbled as we start to see how blessed we are and how great God is. We see that God cares and provides for us in our deepest human needs. I find that when I start every day thanking and praising God for who He is, my heart and day overflows into worship. I remember that as James 1:17 says, every good gift comes from above. And I live out the blessing to myself and others that a joyful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). I thank God for reminding me how to be grateful and for restoring joy to my life!
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children--
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Photo Credit: Cindi Albright "be thankful"