Cultivate a Grateful Heart
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
Tis' the season... to be grateful! As the year quickly comes to an end, this time of year draws us into reflection as we look back over the past year at our gains and losses, successes and setbacks, joys and hardships. It is common practice to decide whether the year was good, or not. Lately, I've come to realize that every year is good. Every year is a gift. Every year is worth celebrating. And whatever my circumstances, I need to cultivate a grateful heart.
My grandpa is remembered as saying, "You woke up!" He was implying that another day of life and breath is enough to be thankful for each day. And this idea was threaded into the fabric of our family. Life is full of annoyances, letdowns, grievances, and disappointments. It may feel like you experience one hardship after another. Often, these things are out of our control. We live in a broken, fallen world where trials are never far off. If thankfulness depended on my circumstances, I'd be bitter and depressed quite often.
The Lord teaches us instead to be grateful in all things.
I won't pretend this is an easy goal. It is hard to be thankful when you have lost your job, your car is in need of a costly repair, you lost a loved one, you aren't speaking to a relative, or every week a new problem arises. Barely any food in the fridge, no money for fuel, or you're weighed down with aches and pains and debilitating health issues. You picked up the bottle again, you can't seem to shake your anger.
Trust me, I know all too well the tragedies and hurts of this world. But the little verse above beckons me to a different way of thinking, believing and living. It draws me to want to be thankful, truly thankful, in all circumstances. Because when I'm grateful, there's not much room for bitterness, hate, revenge, and self-pity. Because gratitude makes me feel better, enjoy life, and put my trust fully in the Lord. Thankfulness reminds me that God is for me and not against me. It reminds me that no weapon formed against me will prosper because I am His beloved child covered in His precious, powerful blood.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
A few years back, I was living in Colorado attending seminary and couldn't afford a flight home to spend the holidays with family. I had no one to celebrate with. So, I spent my Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen with strangers serving food and talking with those who also didn't have any other table to sit at that day. I didn't let my circumstances sour the day nor my ability to be grateful for God's goodness in my life. I chose to serve instead of sulk. I remember that year fondly and know that along with sadness and disappointment, joy can always be found enduring the highs and lows of life.
Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Consider ways that you can foster gratitude this week and open your heart to the joy and peace this time of year brings. We not only pause to take time to reflect on what we're grateful for, but to also prepare our hearts for remembering the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a special time indeed. This season, though we may be lacking or hurting, we can be grateful. Grateful for who God is, what we've come through, and the victories and breakthroughs still to come.
This Week’s Reading Plan
As you read the following passages this week, ask yourself these questions:
1) What verse comforts me that I can commit to memory?
2) What word or phrase stands out?
3) What am I learning about God from this?
4) How can I apply this to my life today?
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Author: Pamela Myers Palmer
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