Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gratitude

I think one of the most important virtues is gratitude. I also think the lack of gratitude is a disaster in the making.

Gratitude gives us perspective.

I have always been thankful for the home I was raised in. I was adopted at three months old. My adoptive parents could not have children so my older brother, younger sister and I were chosen to be their children.

My thankfulness for this home colors how I look at it. Part of the reason my mother could not have children was because of chronic illnesses. I have many memories as a young child of my mother being gone because she was in the hospital. She died the year I turned sixteen.

Depending on my perspective, I could have different feelings about my upbringing. I could feel shortchanged – my birth mother rejected me, my adoptive mother wasn’t there for me because she was always sick and after she died I ended up having to do the cooking and other household chores. I could have been mad at God – what was He thinking?

But I don’t feel that way. Gratitude gives me a different perspective. I see how God brought me into a loving home with a mother, who more than anything else wanted to be a mother. I got to see my Dad cope with so much adversity that came into his life. Sometimes he seemed to get one bad deal after another. But it wasn’t reflected in his attitude because he was thankful for all of his blessings from God.

After my mother’s death, I learned to cook and loved it; I also learned how to work. I can look back and see the wonderful hand of God in our family. He placed me into a good home.

To be thankful we need to remember what God and other people have done for us. Call those things to mind and express them. That gives us a perspective that will get us through the rough times.

When we lack gratitude, life looks different. We live with a chip on our shoulder. Nothing is ever good enough. People are always letting us down. Circumstances are exaggerated out of proportion. We focus on the bad hand we were dealt. A lack of gratitude results in bitterness. A “bitter root” comes when we allow disappointment to grow into resentment, or when we nurse grudges over past hurts.

Gary Thomas says this:

Unless we learn to cultivate a thankful heart, we become stuck in bitterness. I like to think of thankfulness as God's "spiritual air freshener." It replaces the stale odor of resentment with clean, fresh-selling air for the soul to breathe.
I wonder if the lack of gratitude is the problem many times when marriages crumble. Unless it was an arranged marriage, there was a time when love flourished and the couple couldn’t wait to get married. Each thought the other was so wonderful and faults were minimized. Love covered a multitude of sins as 1 Peter 4:8 says. But then something happened. Gratitude was forgotten; the good was not called to mind and was replaced by a focus on faults. Instead of being thankful for the good, the focus became what was bad or what wasn’t.

Many people are mad at God. They think he is holding out on them. They think it’s his fault that they don’t have a good job, more money, a better home, caring friends, etc. If they feel that way towards the God of love and mercy then they probably feel that way towards other people too.

We read over and over in Scripture about people forgetting God. The precursor is a lack of gratitude. We forget what he has done then we forget who he is. Soon, other gods are taking his place. We start to think that it may have been better back in Egypt.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: Give thanks in all things; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. This is the first step to a life of gratitude. Make a list of the things you are thankful for. Pray for the people who irritate you and think about their good qualities. Gratitude will give you a new perspective.

If it’s hard to make a list of things you are thankful for then you probably lack gratitude. What can you thank God for? What are the good qualities of your spouse? What about your job is a blessing? Are you thankful for the people God has brought into your life?

Here are some things I am thankful for:

  • my upbringing in a Christian home
  • that I became a Christian at a young age
  • my wife
  • my children
  • that God has always provided our needs
  • that God forgives sin and doesn’t hold my history over my head
  • for new blessings and mercy each day
  • for good friends who really care about me
  • for a good church to be involved in
  • for the things I don’t even have a clue about
Each of these could have a list of their own.

Philip

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