Have you ever noticed when God wants your attention about something, he keeps putting it in front of your face in different ‘coincidental’ ways?
Try as I may, I can’t get away from these little messages. They’ll show up in the theme of a devotional, a scripture verse of the day, an app, on a billboard, or in random conversation. The most recent for me has dealt with the topic of gratitude. I’ve seen something referencing gratitude several times a day for a week now; I think God is trying to tell me something.
I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty positive person, until I really reflected on it. In reality, I discovered many times where I was critical, negative, and just a straight-up complainer. I truly believe that this grieves God. We’re commanded to rejoice always and to give thanks in all circumstances, which is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It doesn’t say the circumstances we feel good about or agree with, but all circumstances.
Does this mean when we lose a job, a marriage, a loved one, or suffer an injustice? If it fits under ‘all circumstances’, then I guess the short answer is… yes. Why would God command us to give thanks for things that cut us down?
I believe it’s because he cares more about our joy than our happiness.
C.S. Lewis states that joy is the “serious business of Heaven”. It’s a state of being. Happiness is an emotion that ebbs and flows. Joy, however, is a constant internal state that is a fruit of the Spirit and accompanied by peace (Galatians 5:22). Being filled with joy and peace is evidence that we are pursuing righteousness and life within God’s will. Giving thanks is mentioned over 100 times in scripture, in many instances as a precursor to sustaining joy and peace (Colossians 3:15-17, Philippians 4:5-7). So if gratitude is a gateway to these fruits, how does it work?
Gratitude glorifies God because it forces us to see his sovereignty beyond, and often in spite of, our circumstances.
The apostle Paul was a huge giver of thanks despite imprisonments, shipwrecks, and chronic debilitating illness. Even Job learned to give thanks because he realized that God is the only true source of joy and life, even in the midst of suffering. Both were rewarded for their faithfulness.
Giving thanks makes a statement of hope in what’s to come. God tells us that our current trials are insignificant compared to the glory that he wants to share with those who trust in him (Romans 8:18). Grumbling instead of gratitude is like a slap in the face of all God has and plans to do for his children.
This is easy to know in theory, but very hard for me to put in practice. I find myself grumbling about the traffic, chores, kids, work, and on and on. Complaining is contagious! If someone near me complains, then I feel almost obliged to complain as well, and I’m content to join in someone else’s vent-fest. What’s worse is sometimes I’m the one who starts it.
If complaining is contagious, then gratitude is as well.
We all know someone who is, almost irritatingly, always positive. For these folks, the cup is always half-full, and lemons always become lemonade. I have a love-hate relationship with these people. I love them because I want to be like them; I hate them because I realize how far away I am. The only thing separating us, though, is perspective. They choose gratitude, no matter what.
Choosing gratitude creates an atmosphere of positivity that keeps the bigger picture in focus. Of course irritations and problems still happen; however, maintaining a thankful spirit means we’re thanking God for loving us, being present, and ultimately giving us a success story. When we choose to live this way, God’s presence infuses our hearts and minds, which ushers in his fruits of joy and peace. This is how we get through daily aggravations, as well as events that bring us to our knees.
Even science falls on the side of gratitude. Many research studies have reported that gratitude can alter brain chemistry and wiring, resulting in affective clinical treatment for anxiety and depression. In these studies, grateful people report better health, less depression, and more happiness than their counterparts. The good news is that gratitude can be learned, practiced, and mastered. All it requires is the will to do so.
I have been quite convicted this week to embrace gratitude. Now that I am becoming more intentional, I’m realizing just how pervasive complaining can be. Giving thanks is all win, there is no down-side. Thanksgiving fosters humility and promotes contentment that just naturally uplifts my day, and impacts those I come across. This is a much better reflection of the Christ that I love, and whom I claim to serve. As the psalmist writes, I choose to praise and give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his love endures forever.
Overcoming grief with gratitude can be hard. If you’re struggling with finding your peace and thanksgiving, Crossroads is here to help you find your way through. Call 225-341-4147 to talk with Cheryl or another Crossroads counselor.