Choosing thankfulness

I’m sitting here on my sofa with three of my four babies stacked up in my lap. This is where I’ve been for the last six days straight with sick children. As I sip my coffee one handed, I glance outside at the rising sun and I smile. I have so much to be thankful for.

Today I feel very aware that my life is much better than I deserve.

This time of year always causes me to wonder why it’s so easy for my appreciation for all the good that God has poured down on me and my family to so easily blend into the background of my life rather than become the driving force. Most of us are doing well to spend one month each year reflecting on why we are thankful. The remainder of the year it seems like the mundane tasks of life place a shadow on all that we are blessed with.

We carelessly take for granted our health, and the blessings and comforts we are able to enjoy each day and get lost in an attitude of entitlement and negativity. Most times this isn’t deliberate. I think we all WANT to be more grateful, but trials and burdens consistently weigh us down, and we allow feeling overwhelmed to dampen our thankful heart. And because life is just difficult, gratitude can be as well.

It’s easy for me to practice gratitude and feel thankful when circumstances turn out well. But thankfulness shouldn’t be limited only to the good times. Not only is it very possible to remain thankful during difficulties, but it’s also very beneficial. Statistically thankful people cope better than those who grumble and complain. Praise and gratitude takes our focus off of ourselves, and places it on our Lord and Savior. And despite our ever changing circumstances, HE never changes. Never wavers. We can always praise Him for who He is.

Recall to your mind some of the big things God has done for you in the past. For me, this is a stimulus of my own gratitude for what He is doing now, and what I know He will continue to do in my future.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Colossians 2: 6-7

I’ll be honest. Weeks like this one when my kids are sick, and if I’m lucky, I’m running on a couple hours of sleep each night, it’s far too easy for me to develop a woe-is-me mindset although I know FULL WELL that is completely ridiculous. A difficult time period or circumstance can challenge even the deepest faithful heart. But God cautions us on leaning on our own understanding and invites us to trust Him wholeheartedly (Prov 3:5–my personal favorite scripture).

There are many many things beyond our control, but choosing our attitude is the one thing we can control. It’s a choice we get to make. A grumbling attitude can so easily become our default response to unwanted situations. (Don’t you know the deceiver just smiles in delight when we gripe and give way to negativity???).

I read something earlier in the week that I thought was so powerful: Instead of complaining that life is unfair and feeling self pity when we fall on hard times, we can instead, ask God what He wants us to learn from the situation at our doorstep. We can thank Him for an opportunity to lean on Him and grow through and in our faith.

I know this time of year can be tough. Especially when we’ve lost someone close to us, gone through something tragic, or faced with illness or some other terrible circumstance that’s beyond our control.

I’m a big believer in the power of our thoughts and words. What we think and say about ourselves shapes who we are. The words we say about ourselves TO ourselves can literally reprogram our brains to believe it. Acting happy, regardless of our feelings, coaxes our brain into processing positive emotions. It’s pretty amazing the way God designed our brains to function.

When I was a teenager, my Mama printed out this little quote for me, and I’ve kept it in my Bible ever since. I open it up and read it often. I’m sure most of you have seen it, and even if you have, it’s worth another read.

Attitude:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.

~Charles Swindoll

What attitude will you choose? Will you choose to focus your eyes on God and his blessings? Or will you fixate on hardships and circumstances you can’t control? Choosing a negative and ungrateful attitude is taking our first step away from God. That thought scares me.

There is a battle to be waged against ingratitude. We can do this by giving thanks in ALL things. When was the last time you thanked Him for a difficult situation? Do you have more marks of a worshiper or a whiner? How do you think it would affect your family, your church, and your own life individually if you developed more of a sense of gratitude and thankfulness?

Let’s make a conscious effort to search our hearts and ask ourselves these questions. Resolve to do grateful things out of the overflow of a truly grateful heart. Let’s worship, trust, and give thanks because God is who He is–regardless of the dark, painful and incomprehensible places we have walked through. How many days–yours and mine–have began and ended without one word of thankfulness coming from our lips? Jesus said “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh (Luke 6:45). If our lips are not speaking words of thanksgiving, it’s because our hearts are not full of thankfulness. We speak what is in our hearts.

When we are ungrateful, whether it’s because life is hard or because we simply forget to be thankful and take our blessings for granted…whatever the reason, we are in disobedience and that is sin. I know, I know…we don’t wanna hear that. But the Bible is clear, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17). This should be enough to motivate us as followers of Christ to choose thankfulness on a regular basis.

We should strive to be a thankful people because we want to represent Jesus well to a seemingly unthankful and hopeless world around us. This is something we must choose. It won’t just happen. We can pray for a thankful heart. That we will continually overflow with thankfulness. Then we can bare down, and put discipline into action that will help us remember to practice it.

One thing I have tried to start doing is turning every complaint I have into a praise. We must learn to rebel against our emotions and determine that we are going to be thankful whether we feel like it or not. Our emotions, by the way, are untrustworthy barometers, and if we allow them to dictate our bevaior, we will be in tons of trouble in many areas. We can teach our emotions to be servants to our will. And your will–and mine– should be to do the will of God. As we have seen in the examples of all these scriptures, God WANTS us, you and me, to choose thankfulness. And not to merely choose it, but to overflow with it.

Let’s make this daily choice together my friends. Let’s make Jesus look so appealing to those who don’t yet know him as we keep positive actions, grateful attitudes, and thankful hearts. In all things. At all times. And most importantly, choosing thankfulness in obedience to our Lord, thereby showing him that we love him.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thes 5:18

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