"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Gift of Gratitude

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted—a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner
Tangible things I so easily take for granted:
1.       Love of husband
2.       Time with my three precious children
3.       Loving parents who are still married (50 years)
4.       Warm home
5.       “Clean” water
6.       Three cars
7.       Shelves of books to read
8.       Electricity
9.       Three meals a day
10.   Close friendships
Far more importantly are those items that God has blessed me with which have affected my life for eternity. Ephesians lists many of these:
 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14)
Spiritual blessings:
1.       Adoption
2.       Forgiveness
3.       Lavish grace
4.       Holy
5.       Blameless
6.       Wisdom
7.       Understanding
8.       Mystery of His will
9.       Chosen
10.   Hope in Christ
11.   Inheritance
12.   Word of truth (gospel)
13.   Holy Spirit
14.   God’s possession
Ann Voscamp, in her book 1000 Gifts, states “A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” When I meditate on all the God has done for me through his son, Jesus, how can I not be grateful? Shouldn’t that attitude of gratitude spill out everywhere I go—in the car, at the grocery store, in my conversation, in my family?
But, what about the hard things? How can we see God’s blessings in the heart-breaking events of our lives? In divorce and betrayal? In cancer? In death? In physical suffering? How do we give God thanks in the midst of trials and troubles?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” No matter what I am facing, I can give thanks right smack dab “in” the middle of it. I thank Him for His faithfulness to walk me through the pain. I thank Him for comforting me in my sorrow. I thank Him for leading me through the darkness. I thank Him for healing my broken heart. I focus and fix my eyes on the One who endured the pain of nails piercing His body for me and suffered shame on my behalf. I realize He too has experienced betrayal, physical suffering and death. In this imperfect life, how can I accept pleasure and not expect pain; love and not betrayal; life and not death? And yet, God promises to be with me, present beside me, walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks right before he was nailed to a cross for my sin. How can I be ungrateful at any point in my life?
“Father, help me to see everything in my life through the lens of gratitude. I want to remember that you have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ so that I can be the love of Christ to those around me. When trials come, allow me to see your faithfulness. You promise to never leave me no matter what I am going through. When life is sweet, recall to my mind the good gifts you have given me that I so easily take for granted.  May a heart of gratitude spill out of me to everyone I meet.”

“The unthankful heart…discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher

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