This year I’ve been reading, thinking about, meditating on, and journaling all things gratitude. Gratitude is also becoming a bit a buzz word, it’s sadly joining the ranks of hustle, authenticity, and mindfulness. But I can truly say that living in a state of it’s ALL grace, even in pain (which has been my constant companion this year), will transform your life from one of a roller coaster of disappointments to one of consistent joyfulness.
I wrote this article last year and I wanted to share it again. It’s another take on being thankful, particularly when things have been a bit rough around the edges. I hope it encourages. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.”
This verse popped out to me today, considering Thanksgiving just passed. Sacrifice particularly stood out because I never really thought of being thankful as something we can offer to God as an act of service or sacrifice on our part. I know that the bible talks about “being thankful always, for this being God’s will for us,” but I never realized that God knows that thankfulness can be difficult, it can downright be an absolute sacrifice on our parts.
It brought to mind my daily “communication” with God…. My head hits the pillow at night with petitions and before my eyes are even open in the morning, more petitions are pouring out of my mind for the day. Yes, I thank God… but often as the last thing I do after I tumble out all of my worries, concerns, and needs. (Note, the latter, he does want to hear from us as well. Psalm 62:8 tells us to “trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”)
Being thankful is not always the easiest thing to be. It’s not our nature to be thankful. It’s our nature to look at all that is missing in our lives and lament. It’s our first response to look at what we can’t control in our lives and wring our hands in despair. It’s in our nature to dwell on the past, to not be able to let go, move on, trust or hope in the future.
At least that’s my nature. Some people, I’m sure, personality-wise, have better tendencies than I do, God bless ’em. After reading this verse, I read it again. And again. And I felt so convicted for my lack of a thankful heart and grateful spirit. I stopped right there and prayed a heartfelt prayer of gratitude for God’s amazing protection, provision, blessings, removal of blessings, afflictions, and promises over my life. I have meals, I never go hungry, I have a safe, beautiful home, and loving friends and family. God doesn’t leave me as I am, he loves me enough to allow me to go through trials, to be refined, to not let me be happy in my rebellions (which are many). I named specifics. Spiritual and physical blessings.
In America, we are richer than the vast majority of the world. However, I know from personal, present experiences, that when you are in the midst of pain, despair, lost hope, family crises, sicknesses, job losses, heartaches, feeling stuck or trapped in your circumstances, long arduous periods of waiting, feeling like a failure, it’s not easy to wake up with a spirit of joy, remembering and focusing on what you do have and trusting in God’s promises…. it takes a true sacrifice, a letting go of self, sometimes through tears of grief, to offer up, not just words, but a heart of thanks.
Knowing that God sees it as such and accepts it as an offering, makes me that much more inclined to desire to offer it. Recognizing it being something I can give. A gift of my heart, and my spirit, not just merely a duty or command. And somehow, this gift, this sacrifice of praise to God, ends up having a return on investment and gives right back to me.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philipians 4:6-7