Gratitude. It’s something we all know the meaning of. It’s an attitude we claim to have, until something happens that we don’t like. And by ‘we’ I mean myself.
Gratitude has been something I’ve been struggling with lately. Oh, I could claim that it’s because I’m under a lot of stress, or that I’m tired, or that I’m busy, or that the devil has been bothering me, but the truth is, an attitude of ungratefulness stems directly from not spending enough time with God. It comes from holding onto my burdens instead of giving them to Him. It comes from being too dependent on materialistic things and not dependent enough on the One who has given me everything I have. It comes from thinking that I deserve everything and I deserve it now, when really, the only thing I deserve is hell (and there go I but for the grace of God).
Refusing to be grateful is a sickness that can spread quickly unless it is contained and treated. Being ungrateful about the car I have can quickly spread into being ungrateful for the clothes that fill my closet, the food that fills my fridge, the very clean air that I breathe. It’s a sickness that infects my faith and trust in God and whispers that if God really loved me, He’d answer my prayers more quickly, He’d do things the way I want them done.
Ingratitude, at it’s core, is bitterness and jealousy. Jealous that someone got something I wanted. Bitter because I feel that I deserve it more than they do.
I mentioned that I’ve been struggling with being ungrateful. Let me explain. I could feel the stirs of ungratefulness go through my spirit about three weeks ago, and I knew that it was a problem I needed to face. However, I decided that I was due a pity party, so I put off rebuking myself until one Friday evening when I sat on the edge of my bed and cried out to God, telling Him that I could feel a sickness oozing around in my soul.
His gentle whisper was exactly what I knew He’d say, though it didn’t make it any easier to hear. “Count your blessings.” His voice was soft, but firm, and after a few more minutes of telling Him how horrible my day had been (I’d seemingly had every grouchy customer in Wisconsin visit my store that day) I obeyed and pulled out my blessings journal.
I flipped through the pages, running my finger down the lines filled with different colored ink, noting how my handwriting could be perfect one day, sloppy the next, sometimes from tiredness, sometimes from excitement.
I opened my prayer journal and thumbed through it, seeing the many pages filled with names and requests, some of them smeared, some written so hard they almost ripped the paper, and the dates next to them that signified when I had started lifting them to the Lord, and when He had answered them.
But even as I went through all the beautiful things God had blessed me with, I could sense there was something else He was waiting for me to do. I bowed my head, feeling chastised.
Oftentimes the biggest blessings in our lives are the ones we take for granted. We don’t even notice them.
“Lord,” I began tentatively, “I guess I need to be thanking You for a few things. So, I thank You for the food I ate today. I thank You not just that I had food, but that I had enough, and that it wasn’t spoiled or stale. I thank You that I have clean water to drink for there are many who don’t. I thank You that I have a roof over my head, and I don’t have to share my room, as there are many families who share one small room. I thank You that not only am I healthy, I’m so healthy I have to lose weight. I have all my fingers and toes. I’m not sick, and even if I do get sick, I’m healthy enough to get better. I have a job that doesn’t pay pennies. It’s not a sweat shop. I have a family. I live in a free country, not a war torn one. I can worship You in peace and not be afraid of being persecuted. I have access to education and soap.”
On and on I went for several minutes until I found myself weeping as I felt gratitude sweep through me, cleansing my spirit.
“I choose to be grateful,” I told myself. “I choose to have a thankful heart.”
So many times we think that attitudes are something that happen to us whether we want them or not. We act like forgiveness and gratitude are emotions when they are not. They are choices. They are acts of will. They are our spirit telling our flesh that we will serve the Lord.
We like to pretend that it’s okay to have a bad mood because our current situation is less than pleasant when really, our circumstances should never dictate our attitudes.
Just as ingratitude is a choice, so is gratitude. Just as we can choose to be ungrateful about something, we can also choose to be grateful. We can choose to serve our flesh, or we can choose to serve the Lord.
I chose that day to say no to myself. No to my selfish desires. No to what my flesh wanted. No to the mindset that society is boring into us that I deserve better. No to comparison (but God, why does so-and-so get that nice new -whatever- and I don’t?).
In essence – no to me and yes to God.
To be honest, it hurts. It’s painful when God has to do cardiac surgery, but the results are so worth it. It hurts when He has to to go in and literally scrape out our hearts, but the end result is not only a healthier relationship with Him, it’s also a healthier relationship with ourselves.
Fast forward to Thursday, August 23rd, 2019. I opened up my blessings journal with the intention of counting my blessings. I started this journal July 2018 after reading the book The Prayer of Jabez and it’s a habit I intend to keep for the rest of my life.
In 13 months, I recorded 204 blessings. Let that sink in. 204. Those are just the ones I remembered to write down. Those are just the ones I noticed. Those are just the ones I didn’t take for granted.
When Paul said that God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ, he meant it.
Are you struggling today with feelings of ungratefulness? Do you keep catching yourself complaining about how you didn’t get what you wanted? or that it’s not fair that so-and-so was blessed with something you wanted? Do you find yourself taking everything you have for granted? Do you feel that you are struggling with bitterness and jealousy? Are you frustrated because you know there’s something not quite right going on in your soul but you don’t know what to do about it?
Friend, if you answered yes to even just 1 of those questions, may I suggest that you hide yourself away with the Father for some prayer? Turn on gentle instrumental music and have a talk with the One who will never leave nor forsake you. I encourage you to envision yourself as Mary when she sat at Jesus’ feet. Sit before the King and talk to Him. Be frank. God is our best friend, so talk to Him. Tell Him what happened in your day. Tell Him what you’re struggling with.
Our great and heavenly Father knows we struggle. The Bible tells us that Jesus is aware when even a single sparrow falls from the sky, and that if He knows such a small detail as that, how much must He care about us, His children?
Every breath we breathe, every moment our hearts beat, is a blessing. Society has conditioned us to be spoiled and selfish, but I believe that through a heartfelt relationship with God, we can break that cycle and learn to be truly grateful. God has given us so much, and I’ve made it a habit to spend five minutes a day giving thanks.
Take the time to give thanks, and sometimes, you’ll find it necessary to do a reset like I do, when I spend several minutes giving thanks for all the things I take for granted. If you are struggling with feeling ungrateful, I urge you to do this every day. Listing your blessings out loud is how you break the chains of being ungrateful.
I would also encourage you to grab a copy of Craig Groeschel’s book called Altar Ego and pay special attention to the chapter called “Living with Gratitude.”
In the songs I’ve listed for you to listen to, I urge you to listen to Laura Story’s song Blessings more than any other. Nothing has helped put this subject into perspective better for me than that song.
Since staring my blessings journal, I have learned how to be thankful for not just the big things, but the small things as well, and I’ve found a peace that is unlike any other because by being aware of how richly I am blessed, I need not worry about the future for I know that God will provide. If He is faithful in the little things, He will be faithful in the big things.
Count your blessings. Start a blessings journal. Take a moment and realize how greatly you are blessed. Kick bitterness and jealousy to the curb and become the child of God you are meant to be.
- Thank God For Something
- Counting Every Blessing
- Count Your Blessings
- There Shall Be Showers Of Blessings
- Blessed Be Your Name
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