May
27

Get Your Gratitude On

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Expressing gratitude is a key to living well. It opens our hearts to God and others, awakens our faith, and gives perspective to life.

Yet we often find ourselves stuck in the mire of discouragement, depression, hopelessness, resentment, and bitterness and expressing gratitude is the last thing we want to do and can feel very difficult to attempt.

Much easier is the choice to grumble, complain, doubt, fear, and expect to be disappointed both in God and in others.

Expressing gratitude removes the obstacles to seeing the wonder of life, the handiwork of God’s hands, and the beauty in people. The expression of gratitude leads us to experience gratitude. Experiencing gratitude changes us.

Jeremiah reflected, “The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."…

How can we find the grace and strength to express gratitude? How can we connect to the ability to identify and appreciate God, others, and life?

Here are three things that I believe help:

1. Begin each day with a time of thankfulness. Make gratefulness a habit, your default setting. Thank God for every good thing that you can think of.

I laughingly (yet honestly) say that I’ve survived some days by praising my way through a sink full of dirty dishes (or an avalanche of dirty laundry or other obstacles). It often has gone something like this, “Lord, I thank you that I can stand on my feet. I thank you that I have a sink, warm water, soap. Thank you that I have hands to wash these dishes. I thank you that my children are healthy and can eat. I thank you that my hands can feel these dishes. I thank you that my family is alive. Thank you for each one of them, Lord. I thank you for this window I can look out of to see your beautiful world. Thank you for the money to buy groceries. Thank you for food. …”

And on it goes. I almost immediately feel my spirit lift. My circumstances have not changed. My kitchen may still be dirty. The dishes may still need washing.  But I change. I connect to my God, the God of all hope.

Keep a list of what you are thankful for. Many studies have shown that people who keep journals or make lists of what they are thankful for are happier, more positive, more energetic, and generally just plain ole nicer than people who don’t.  They are physically healthier, have less pain, sleep better, and feel more refreshed. Just don’t let the list become a chore, which can make you dread it. Just use it as one way to focus on thankfulness.

If I feel grumbly or discouraged or depressed, I often ask God who else might feel that way. When He brings someone to my mind, I pray for them. I sometimes send them a card or pick up the phone and call them. I don’t tell them that I need encouragement. I just encourage them and my heart and spirit lift as I give away what I need.

2. Renew your mind. Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ..”

Our minds can be renewed. The way we think can change. Reading and meditating on God’s word changes our thinking. And as we find in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

And we now know that this literally happens in our brains as neural pathways change. We retrain our brain to connect to grateful thoughts even in stressful days as we not only say we are grateful but spend time meditating on what we are grateful for and take the time to feel the gratitude.

Gratitude often brings us peace, more feelings of connectedness, love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion which take us even deeper into the process of renewing our minds.

An honest look at life tells us that there are times when it’s tough to be grateful. These are the days when we walk by faith. We cling to God’s Word. We connect with others. God doesn’t expect us to deny the truth when life is hard, but He does invite us into His peace which comes from His Spirit.

We give thanks IN everything, not FOR everything. Not all things are good, but God is good. Our gratefulness honors Him and declares that no matter what our emotions say, God is still faithful. He works all things together for good. That does not mean that all things are good, but that God in His infinite wisdom and power can take the worst that life may bring and birth beauty and new life. Beauty for ashes.

3. Focusing on God’s past faithfulness also helps us stay grounded. Think of all the times when God has delivered you, helped you, encouraged you, and brought you through. This type of gratitude stirs our faith that God can be counted on to be faithful again.

Even we think of the worst days of our lives, we can find the miracles of God. I can think of losses, sorrows, and the worst moments of my life and see where God has birthed beauty, strength, and new life from the darkest of days. I’ve learned lessons and experienced life reborn.

So how about it? Will you choose gratitude? To do so is to choose life, spiritual, emotion, and physical life.  It’s an approach to life that begins with a choice. “In everything gives thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus ….” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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