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Friday, November 22, 2013

When Having an Attitude of Gratitude is Hard

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, I've been thinking a lot about gratitude and having a heart of thankfulness. My head knows that the best way to counteract a selfish attitude and a discontented spirit is to be thankful, but often times my heart has a hard time expressing a grateful attitude.

Honestly, it's been a hard year or two. With the ups and downs that have come the last couple of years, a big part of me has wanted to have a pity party, sulk and complain about how my life could be better. Of course I know that I should choose to put on a grateful attitude but sometimes I just don't want to. So, what do you do if having an attitude of gratitude is just too hard?

Well, many of my favorite theologians and bloggers tell me I should keep a thankful journal. And, while I think that's a great idea and I do try to sit and write down all the things I'm thankful for; often times I write down the things that I know God has blessed me with but it seems to be just words on a page. My heart still isn't changed. I don't feel more content or less selfish.

Others tell me to think about how bad others have it and then I won't be so discontented with my own life. "You know, there's always someone else who has it worse off than you.", is a statement I often hear. While true, that thought doesn't just magically make me feel better. Actually, if I do put that method into practice and I start thinking about others who have it worse than me; I don't feel better about my own circumstances, I just get more depressed at how hard life really is not just for me but for others around me.

What I do know is that the Bible consistently commands us to have a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods." Psalm 95:2-3

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Okay, so God obviously commands His children to be thankful. So, what do we do when being thankful does not come easy to us?

1. Ask for the Holy Spirit's help.
 
I, on my own accord, cannot muster up a thankful and grateful attitude. I NEED help! My heart is naturally bent towards selfishness, discontentedness and ungratefulness. The only way my heart will change is with the help of the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can give me an attitude of gratitude. And, He stands ready and willing to change me if only I am willing to accept His help.

2. Look to Jesus

As I said before, I have trouble with the whole method of looking at others who have things worse than me in order to make myself more thankful for my own circumstances. But, there is one person whose life, ministry and suffering I can look to in order to stir up an attitude of thanksgiving in my heart- Jesus. His entire life and ministry was dedicated to saving and freeing sinners like me. He suffered and died for me (and for you if you are His child). His suffering was not because of His own sin or because of some horrible chance or because He needed to go through all of it to get closer to God. No! He was perfect, His death was a part of the Father's perfect plan and He was one with God from the beginning of time, you can't get any closer than that. No, He suffered and died a horrible death FOR ME. Now, that makes me thankful!

"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Happy Thanksgiving!