the choice to be grateful

happy

That seems to happen quite often, doesn’t it? Wishing for more happiness than we already have and we tend to find ourselves instantly dissatisfied with all that we’ve been given. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve been there; done that. But, I’ve learned that in and through Jesus, life doesn’t have to be that way.

John 10.10 states that Jesus came so that “[we] may have life, and have it to the full.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been working my way through Sharon Jaynes’ A Sudden Glory (found here) again and the eighth chapter really hit home for me again this week. Jaynes broaches the subject of seeing God through the lenses of gratitude and grace. I’d like to dig a little deeper based on my own study of those same scriptures this week.

Our world is littered with traces of “I want(s)” and”I need(s).” Everywhere we look, our culture pulls on the strings of our hearts with advertising and ideas claiming that “if only we had [blank], we’d be happy/fulfilled/content…” (you name it). Broken people lead dissatisfied lives…no thankfulness…no grace. It’s empty. Dark. Alone.

That’s no way to live.

I’ve often considered how all of this got started and well, we can point back to the garden. Everything points back to the garden. Have you ever wondered what whet Adam and Eve’s appetite for wanting something more than constant communion and union with God? Have you ever considered what stirred the desire for more and made them vulnerable to the serpent’s enticing suggestion?

It may have had something to do with ingratitude.

Adam and Eve simply were not satisfied with that life. Like me (time and time again…still learning here folks), Eve felt that God was holding out on her…on some level. She had issues with simply trusting in His goodness and that He had her best interests in mind. He does that with all of us and yet, we don’t trust Him. It’s too good to be true.

So…what do we do about the lack of gratitude in our world? How can we rise above the ashes of this world and see that true beauty that God provides in the midst of our struggles/wants/needs/desires/etc.?

With gratitude.

I firmly believe that in cultivating a heart of gratitude in the midst of this life, one cannot be dissatisfied/overwhelmed or be dejected over their circumstances at the same time. It isn’t possible. Sure…a person can fake being thankful, but only for so long…but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Jaynes writes that “gratitude is the most effect way to deepen your consciousness to the fact that you are the object of God’s affection and love. Giving thanks awakens your sense to see God, to hear God, to taste and see that He is good” (emphasis mine).

Ingratitude laced with grumbling, complaining, and murmuring is an easy and ugly trap to fall into. It’s also very contagious. There is nobody more miserable than an ungrateful person. Have you ever found yourself near the types of people I like to call “joy drains”? Where all they see is the negative; all they do is complain? It’s easy to fall into the habit of cynicism and pessimism; to fall into that thought cycle…even for an optimist like me. It is so easy. Too easy.

Gratitude, on the other hand, turns what we have into enough. It can change your perspective on the simplest of mundane tasks and/or circumstances and transform them into moments of intimacy with our Creator.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” In reality…most of us are thankful for very little. Have you thanked God for the fact that you opened your eyes this morning? That you have a warm bed to sleep in and roof over your head? Have you thanked Him for the people He has placed in your life; for the friends you have; for your children/family; for any relationship you’ve been given? I could go on, but you get the picture.

James also writes that we should “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1.2) That can be anything.

The Bible doesn’t command us to feel thankful in all circumstances. Instead it commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Jaynes put it well when she penned:

“Gratitude changes the lens through which we see the circumstances in [the little slice of time we’ve been given.] Thanksgiving changes our perspective despite broken dreams, broken relationships, tumultuous circumstances, and unfulfilled longings. As you praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done, your perspective of Him grows larger and your problems grow smaller. As a result, you will experience a deeper sense of intimacy with God as the emotional gap between what you know to be true and how you feel at the moment closes.” (pg. 158)

Truth.

The moment you start to think about all that you have to be thankful for, your perspective changes, the color scheme of life brightens, and you just may catch a glimpse of that silver lining.

Just ask yourself: What am I thankful for?

It’s an easy question to answer when you think about it. For instance:

  • I’m thankful for the life I’ve been given
  • that last breath of fresh air I took during my walk on my lunch break today
  • that Jesus chose to give His life so I could living in communion with Him now while I wait for His return
  • grace…amazing, sweet grace
  • my health
  • seventy degree days with lots of sunshine (or days with sunshine, period)
  • my family
  • good friends
  • my job
  • the fact that I get to enjoy my evening catching with some girlfriends from my home church in South Dakota
  • this new and significantly important relationship God recently brought into my life

…the list goes on.

What are you thankful for?

Try it. You sense the shift. It’s impossible not to.

We see this shift throughout all of scripture. Remember the Israelites wandering through the desert? They were an ungrateful group of people…I honestly don’t think I’ve read of any single group of people or a person who were as dissatisfied (granted, I’m sure not all of them felt that way…but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s contagious…). Or how about King David? The man shifted from depression to rejoicing in a matter of seconds…just read through the Psalms. He didn’t wait until God changed his current struggle/situation. He chose to be thankful in that moment.

Let me share one more verse with you:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3.17-18

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool how God works through that. In choosing to focus on the trust we can have in Him and on His blessings rather than focusing on our current circumstances, we realize just how big and good God is and, in turn, can be grateful for all He’s done. Everything else seems moot when you put it in that perspective.

B-E-A-U-tiful! (Thank you, Jim Carey…)

And when we choose to the do the same, our perspective will change as well.  “A thankful heart opens the windows of heaven that allow us to peek at the glory [God has chosen to reveal to us here on earth].” (pg. 160)

Part of the beauty of mankind is that God gave us free will. We have a choice. We always have a choice; a daily choice.  Will you choose to praise Him for His grace and trust in His goodness today? Or will you choose the way of the world, allowing ingratitude to seep in? I’ve chosen the former and I’ve come to realize just how truly blessed I am today…and every day.

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