The God of the Impossible

Tomorrow will be the five-month anniversary of the day the Lord took our son David to his heavenly home. When David was born, my husband and I entered an unknown world of being the parents of a child with extensive medical needs that our lives centered around meeting his needs.

During David’s short lifetime, we’ve faced a long list of diagnoses with diseases we had never even heard of before, fragile bones which resulted is numerous fractures, evaluations by doctors that put David’s life-expectancy at twelve years or less, dozens of hospitalizations which could have ended in death, and even a legal battle to not lose all his essential nursing care when he turned twenty-one. In the midst of all of this, the Lord graciously gave us thirty-four years with David.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful for the work God has done in my husband’s and my life over the last thirty-four plus years to bring us to the place where the attributes of God’s character have moved from being words in a book to being truths we now know by personal experience. Trials are rich soil in which our knowledge of God has the opportunity to grow.

  • I now know our God is a loving and compassionate Father, because I’ve seen His love and compassion in innumerable situations in our lives.
  • I now know God is faithful to keep His promises, because in one circumstance after another God has given us promises and then done exactly what He promised.
  • I now know God has the power to do what looks impossible in my eyes, because I’ve seen Him turn around several situations that looked impossible.

The one situation that stands out to me above all others was what God did when David aged out of the children’s services program that provided him with sixteen hours a day of private duty nursing care. When David’s twenty-first birthday was approaching, the state offered us only two options. We could choose to keep David at home and meet his extensive medical needs without any nursing care, or we could institutionalize him in a state school. We went to visit the nearest state school for the disabled, and they told us they really hoped we would not enroll him there, because they were not able to meet his extensive medical needs. We’ve never faced a situation that looked more impossible!

God gave us a promise: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ As I was praying, the Lord brought to mind the name of a legal assistance program, Advocacy, Inc. (now known as Disability Rights Texas). I made a call to the local legal office, but this was such a major case that we ended up being represented at the Federal District Court by the top legal team for disability rights in the state of Texas, at no cost to us.

Through a legal settlement, God made a way for us to continue to meet David’s needs in our home, with no reduction in the level of services he received as a child, until the day the Lord took him home. And He provided the added benefit of setting a legal precedent through our case that has helped numerous other families who have faced the same situation when their son or daughter turned twenty-one.

Now that our son is safely in God’s presence, no longer suffering but whole for the first time, our family is walking in a season of transition. The past is behind us, the future uncertain. In this situation, a quote I heard many years ago has come to mind. While I don’t have a clear picture of what lies ahead, I do know the One who does. As Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Today, I want to encourage you to look at your current circumstances through the lens of God’s attributes. How has He shown Himself to you through the struggles you’ve walked through? What characteristics of God have moved from simply being something you’ve read about in the Word of God to something you now know by personal experience? Let’s encourage one another today by sharing how your battles with chronic illnesses and whatever other difficulties have been a part of your life have helped you grow in your knowledge of God.

The Antidote to Poisonous Words

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:21‬ ‭MSG‬

What were the first words out of your mouth when you woke up this morning? Whether they were spoken aloud to someone or simply words that went through your mind, your words are important. They have the power to give life or destroy, to encourage and strengthen or to demoralize and cause distress.

Last Thursday, we completed the study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. As I was praying this week about where to go from here,  one word came to mind. Negativity. Conquering this habit in both our thinking and our speaking is an essential for a lifestyle of gratitude. And why is this so important? Negativity is like adding poison to your mind and thinking you’ll be okay. It will lead to spiritual decay and even death.

We live in a world where negativity is common place. Add the challenges of life with chronic illness, and our lives can easily be the perfect soil for seeds of negativity to take root and start growing. Did you wake up with pain this morning? After a poor night’s sleep? With anxious thoughts about the future? Our initial thoughts and words each day have the power to set a pattern for how our day will go. If we allow circumstances and emotions to determine how we begin our day, it starts us off in a direction that will rob us of thankfulness and vitality.

The epistle of James, believed to be written by a half-brother of Jesus, has much oneto teach us about the importance of taming our tongues – and the total impossibility of doing this in our human strength.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James‬ ‭3:2-6*‬ 

The tongue is like a rudder that determines the direction of our lives. An out-of-control tongue will lead to a life of unrighteousness and constantly falling short of the will of God. Yet in the next two verses James says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” So what can we do to turn this area of our lives around?

Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke‬ ‭6:45‬

So changing the words that come out of our mouths begins with a changed heart. That is a work of the Holy Spirit, but also a process we have a part in.

  1. Begin with prayer. Dedicate your heart, mind and tongue to the Lord daily. Pray specifically for a changed heart that reflects the heart of God. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalms‬ ‭51:10, 12‬ ‭‭
  2. Make a commitment to be a doer of the Word. Agree that you will “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭ The Greek translated corrupt or corrupting (depending on what translation you’re using) means “to produce rot or decay.” If the words in your mind will have this effect in your life, make a commitment to not give them utterance.
  3. Rely on God’s strength to follow through on this commitment. Remember, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭‬‬ Stand on God’s promise in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  4. Begin each new day by dedicating your heart and tongue to the Lord. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
  5. ‭‭Put your heart in tune with God’s Spirit by reading your Bible daily. When God speaks to you through a particular verse, slow down and pay attention. Memorize and meditate on the verse. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  6. ‭‭Accept responsibility for every word you speak. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew‬ ‭12:36-37‬
  7. Give thanks to the Lord for the good work He is doing in you in this area. Remember, we are still in process, but God will finish what He has started in our lives . “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭‬‬

‭‭Let’s keep moving forward in this journey to a consistent attitude of gratitude. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by poisonous words that lead to spiritual rot and decay. Ask God to do the needed work in you to tame your tongue, to rid it of words that are negative and don’t line up with His ways and His Word. God wants to change our hearts in this area. Let Him do the needed work to make us willing and able to bring this area of our lives under His Lordship.

*All verses in ESV unless otherwise noted

img_8158

Going “Gratitudinal” – Changing My Attitude to One of Gratitude

The final chapter in Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, is about change. When we are facing difficult circumstances, change sounds inviting. But this chapter isn’t talking about a change of circumstances. The change referred to in this chapter is a change in our attitude toward our circumstances.

An attitude is a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular subject, situation, person or group of people. Attitudes are often the result of our experiences or upbringing, and they can have a powerful influence over our behavior. While attitudes are enduring, they can also change. Attitudes are a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way, and since they are learned they can also be unlearned.

Woodrow Kroll, evangelical preacher and radio host of Back to the Bible has said concerning our attitude about difficult circumstances, “Nothing is so sour that it can’t be sweetened by a good attitude.”

Author, speaker and pastor John Maxwell wrote in his book Developing the Leader Within You, “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

While changing circumstances is a great goal, sometimes we are powerless to do this. For example, I can do nothing to change the fact that our special needs son David suffered for thirty-four years with profound mental retardation, spastic quadriplegia CP, seizures and fragile bones prone to fracture and then graduated from this world to heaven last November. I also can do little to change my personal pain and limitations from the chronic illness and disability I live with daily as a result of an auto accident in 1975 that also took the life of our first born daughter Teresa. But in both of these situations, I do have the power to change my attitude. I can choose to have a God-honoring attitude in whatever circumstances I’m currently walking through.

New attitudes start with new mind-sets and result in new behavior. Let’s take the two circumstances I shared above. In dealing with the challenging life and recent loss of our precious son, I could focus on how hard life was for David and the pain of our recent loss, or I could shift my focus to the truth that David is now in the presence of the Lord and whole after a lifetime in a broken body. In my chronic illness and physical disability, I could turn my mind on all the things I’m unable to do, or I could thank the Lord for the blessings in my life and all the things I am able to do. As Nancy says, “The pathway to personal transformation requires a change in perspective.”

She says, “I’d like to coin a new word for those who may be deficient in the gratitude department (which includes all of us from time to time).” Instead of speaking of “attitudinal change,” Nancy calls us to “gratitudinal change.”

Gratitudinal change comes from choosing “to live in the fullness of your relationship with God, not hindered and hamstrung and holding Him at arm’s length, but experiencing Him richly. Feeling at home in His presence.”

It results in rewriting our story “into a tale of God’s grace, one that He uses to help you be an effective minister of His hope and healing to those who are walking the same kind of path” He has helped us to walk. It’s being “so available to His Spirit’s leading, so aware of others’ needs, and so willing to be open and genuine, that God takes the things Satan meant for evil and transforms them into things of value.”

It’s living as God’s Word instructs us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

‭‭The author gives several specific recommendations to get us headed in the direction of “gratitudinal change.”

  • Surrender your rights to God. If we are to bloom and flourish as children of God in this harsh and suffocating culture – shining like ‘lights in the world’ – we must pour ourselves out as a drink offering before the Lord.”
  • Commit to a set season of gratitude. “Like any other virtue, a grateful spirit is the work of God’s Spirit within the life of a believer who is purposeful about putting off fleshly inclinations and cultivating spiritual ones. And that takes time, effort, and focused attention.” 
  • Take stock of your gratitude accounts. “Who deserves (or needs) a word of thanks from you? Who in your life could use a bit of encouragement today?”
  • Write thank you notes. Remember, “the act of expressing gratitude breeds joy. In the sender and in the recipient… Don’t get hung up on the ‘technique.’ Do resolve to have a thankful heart and to take time to express your gratitude as frequently as possible, by whatever means possible, to as many people as possible.”
  • Do it together, as a Body-building exercise. As we bring this nine-week study of Choosing Gratitude to a close, I encourage you to share with the other members of our group how you plan to put these principles we’ve studied into practice.

Understanding the place of suffering in the Christian life is a key to walking through whatever God permits to touch our lives with a Gratitudinal attitude.

Joni Eareckson Tada became well acquainted with suffering when at age eighteen she suffered a cervical fracture when diving into some shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. She has identified suffering as “God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us... the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.” She adds, “God is more concerned with conforming me to the likeness of His Son than leaving me in my comfort zones. God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstances – things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my character.”

Elizabeth Elliot was plunged into the world of suffering when her husband Jim was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. She said, “This hard place in which you perhaps find yourself is the very place in which God is giving you opportunity to look only to Him, to spend time in prayer, and to learn long-suffering, gentleness, meekness – in short, to learn the depths of the love that Christ Himself has poured out on all of us… The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

Author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth brings this study to a close with these words, “Some of the holy work we need to have done in us and through us can only come through the valley of shadow and suffering. Are you going to be resistant to that? Or are you going to be clay in His hands, knowing that He is intent on shaping you into the image of Christ and wants to use your life for something far bigger than you own comfort, convenience, and pleasure? He wants your life to be part of a grand, eternal redemptive picture that portrays the wonder of His saving grace.”

I encourage you to meditate on these quotes concerning the benefits we gain through suffering. And allow them to cause a change in your perspective concerning the difficult circumstances in your life.

Do you want your life to reflect the character of Christ? Do you agree that God is more interested in inward qualities than in outward circumstances? Do you want to know the depths of God’s love? Do you want to “go forward in ways that are pleasing to Him, ways that place us in the center of His great will and plan”? Then, make the decision to begin looking at your world through “gratitude-colored glasses.”

I want to close today with a song by Joni Eareckson Tada that perfectly expresses the attitude God desires us to have toward the suffering He has allowed in our lives.

Religious Lifestyle or Living Relationship?

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us as Christians to always be prepared to share the reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ – in other words, to be ready whenever the opportunity arises to share our personal testimony of how we came to know Christ. I especially like the New Living Translation wording of this verse.

“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

During recent weeks, our iConnect Bible study class members have been taking turns sharing our personal testimonies of how we came to know Christ. The goal has been for each of us to prepare and share a brief, two to three minute testimony of our life before knowing Christ, how we came to know Him, and how receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord has changed how we live. Then, when God opens the door to  share this with someone who does not know Christ as their personal Savior we’ll be prepared to explain what God has done in our lives and what He is able and willing to do in their life.

This is my personal testimony.

I was born into a Christian family. My father and my mother had both accepted the Lord as their personal Savior at an old fashioned camp meeting revival before they were married, and by the time I came along over 20 years later, our family lived a Christian lifestyle.

Two of my earliest childhood memories are of my father sitting in his red leather rocker every morning before leaving for work reading his Bible, and of my mother kneeling beside her bed each night praying. And going to church was simply what we did – every time the doors were open. It was as much a part of my lifestyle as a child and teenager as going to school.

We attended a Methodist church that was at the end of the block where we lived, and I remember walking to the church early every Sunday morning. During the week, I also spent lots of time at the parsonage which was next door to the church, visiting with some of my best friends, our pastor’s daughter and another friend who lived next door.

My father was a deacon in our church, my older sister who still lived at home a children’s Sunday School teacher and choir member. And by the time I was in high school I was either working in the nursery or teaching the youngest class of children most Sundays.

When I went away to college in 1966, I continued to attend church. A large local Methodist church sent a bus to the campus to pick up students, and I seldom missed a Sunday.

When I graduated from college in 1970 and moved to the town north of Baltimore where I had a job teaching kindergarten, one of the first things I did after my roommate and I got unpacked and settled in an apartment was to start looking for a church. I found a nearby Methodist church and started attending. And this church is where my life changed.

At this church, my life changed when Christianity became more than a religious lifestyle. It became a relationship, a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It was in this church that I first understood that the only way to be a real part of God’s kingdom is by being born again. For the first time, I understood that my religious lifestyle wasn’t enough. I understood that my sin separates me from God, but that God had provided a way to bridge that gap.

Even though I had attended church all my life, even though I considered myself a Christian, for the first time in my life I recognized this wasn’t enough.

For the first time, I understood why Jesus had to die on the cross, and the steps I needed to take to benefit from His sacrifice.

  1. I now saw myself as a sinner who needed salvation.
  2. I understood that the just penalty for sin is death.
  3. I acknowledged that Jesus paid that penalty for me when He died on the cross.
  4. I recognized that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, one we accept by faith.
  5. I received that gift by faith, as I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. And I was born again – and since that day my life has never been the same.

My life as a new Christian began me down a new road, one that definitely hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve never regretted the decision I made so many years ago. Jesus has been with me, walking at my side, through every trial I’ve faced, and my relationship with Him has been my source of strength.

Do you have a similar story you can tell? If not, now is the time to take these same steps I took. Moving from religion to relationship has the power to transform your life.

If you’ve already received this free gift of salvation by faith, are you prepared to share the reason for the hope you have found in Christ Jesus? Have you taken the time to prayerfully prepare a brief testimony of the work of God in your life to bring you to salvation? Acts 1:8 says the Lord has called us to be His witnesses, to our Jerusalem (the city where we live), our Judea and Samaria (the area nearby), and to the ends of the earth. Are you prepared to be His witness whenever He opens the door for you to do so? If not, don’t wait another day to get ready.

 

God’s Purposes Will Be Accomplished!

I came across an interesting story today as I was preparing my lesson for this week’s Sunday school class, one that was such a good example of how God uses situations we see as negative to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

Chris, a rambunctious, athletic nine-year old was diagnosed with mononucleosis. His doctor ordered him to stay indoors for the entire summer, which was like a prison sentence for the young boy who was looking forward to Little League baseball, fishing trips, and bike rides.

Chris’s dad was a man of faith, and he resolved to find something good in the quarantine. He personally enjoyed playing a guitar, so he got one for Chris. Every morning, before he left for work, he taught young Chris a new chord or technique and told him to practice it all day. They soon learned that Chris had a knack for playing the guitar. By the end of the summer, Chris was playing Willie Nelson tunes and beginning to write some songs of his own. Within a few years he was leading worship in churches.

Today, he is regarded as the “most sung songwriter in the world.” I’m sure you’re familiar with some of his original songs – like “How Great is Our God” and “Good Good Father.” And God’s purpose in Chris Tomlin’s life may never have been fulfilled if God had not allowed him to be diagnosed with mononucleosis at age nine.

How Can I Say Thanks?

Entitlement. The “I deserve it” attitude: I deserve love. I deserve peace. I deserve comfort. I deserve an easier life. I deserve more help. I deserve happiness. I deserve it and I want it now.

No other quality so marks today’s culture. And no other quality so quickly destroys the attitude of gratitude we’ve been learning to purposefully choose during this study of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

Do you see remnants of entitlement surface in your life from time to time? I know I do. During this past week, I’ve faced a daily battle to not give place to this destructive attitude that is so prevalent in our society. After accomplishing some major steps last week toward bringing closure to this season of loss after the November death of our son, I had high expectations that this week would be different, as we began moving forward into the future God is preparing our family for.

Instead, this has been another difficult week. I faced another outbreak of the stress-related hives that begin in early December that has made me miserable physically. Now that the medical equipment and supplies were no longer blocking my access to David’s room, it was time to start sorting through all of his personal things, which was difficult emotionally. Instead of the hoped for closure, it’s just seemed like more of the same trials. I’ve battled such thoughts as “I deserve an easier life,” and “I’m tired of waiting for _ _ _ _ to be done,” and even “it’s not fair that the rest of my family gets to eat this dessert but I can’t without blowing my diet.”

To choose an attitude of gratitude often begins by kicking an attitude of entitlement out of our lives. So how do we get over an “I deserve it” attitude? By recognizing God has already given us more that we could ever ask or imagine. and humbly thanking Him for His amazing goodness toward us as His adopted children. Humble gratefulness toward God and the people He has placed in our lives is the key to overcoming an attitude of entitlement.

The chapter we are reading this week in our study of this book on the grace of gratitude is filled with some practical ways of putting to death an attitude of entitlement and replacing it with a true spirit of gratitude. True gratitude is so much more than walking through the motions or completing a list of things we feel obligated to do. Genuine gratitude is the natural outflow of a truly grateful heart. It is a change of lifestyle.

So how do we cultivate a heart and lifestyle of gratitude? What are some practical ways to turn away from a heart rooted in entitlement and develop a heart and lifestyle of gratitude? Nancy lists several in this chapter.

  1. Speak it aloud. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Gratitude “begs to be expressed, both to God and to others.” Or as author Gladys Berthe Stern said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. Spoken words of thankfulness have the power to dissipate a spirit of heaviness in the lives of those around us (Isaiah 61:3).
  2. Sing it out. “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” (Psalms‬ ‭30:4)‬ ‭ Whether you have natural musical talent or the best you can do is “make a joyful noise to the Lord” (Psalm 98:4), music is a powerful means of expressing gratitude to God for His goodness to us.
  3. Kneel down. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6) Kneeling before God symbolizes worship and honor to God. Kneeling during prayer or worship is a sign of humility, by it we humble ourselves before Him and recognize Him as Lord. Romans 14:11 says the time will come when, “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” As believers in Christ, we are encouraged to do that now as a part of our gratitude to God.
  4. ‭‭Privately and publicly. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.” (Psalm‬ ‭57:9‬) Gratitude should be expressed everywhere, and at every opportunity, both privately before the Lord and publicly before others.
  5. When and where. Just as the ways to express gratitude are varied, the times and places where it is appropriate are unlimited. While definitely a part of celebrations and holidays (“holy days” or even secular holidays), each day presents us with opportunities for giving thanks. 1 Chronicles 23:30 says praise and giving thanks are to be offered every morning and at evening. Daniel taught by example the discipline of giving thanks three times a day. Psalm 119:62 says, “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.” And to make sure we know that gratefulness and praise are always appropriate, Psalm 34 begins with these words, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

“Of Whiners and Worshipers”

Frances Jane Crosby, better known as Fanny Crosby, prolific writer of over eight thousand hymns including such well know classics as Blessed Assurance and Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, wrote the following in her autobiography concerning how she became blind as an infant and her response to this misfortune.

“When I was six weeks of age a slight cold caused an inflammation of the eyes, which appeared to demand the attention of the family physician; but he not being at home, a stranger was called. He recommended the use of hot poultices, which ultimately destroyed the sense of sight. When this sad misfortune became known throughout our neighborhood, the unfortunate man thought it best to leave; and we never heard of him again. But I have not for a moment, in more than eighty-five years, felt a spark of resentment against him because I have always believed from my youth to this very moment that the good Lord, in his infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do.”

If anyone has a “right” to feel resentful and whine, it was Fanny Crosby. Yet as a young child she decided this was not the life she wanted to live. Her first recorded poetry, written at age eight, reflected this decision.

The message from the life of Fanny Crosby is clear. Whether we will be a whiner or a worshiper is a decision we must make for ourselves. No one else can do it for us. No matter what circumstances we are currently facing, we can choose the highway of worship and gratefulness. Or we can choose the path of whining and ungratefulness

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth begins this week’s chapter by sharing that life often requires us to make a choice of which path we will walk, using Fanny Crosby as an example. This is where I personally was when I sat down Wednesday afternoon to write this post for today’s study.

Since early December, when we had the memorial service at our church for our son David, we have been working to bring closure to this season of our lives where grieving the loss of our son has never been far from our conscious thoughts. But one major task was still facing us, the actual burial of David’s remains. Since he was totally dependent upon us, David was eligible for burial in the plot where my husband and I will later be buried, at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Houston. But for that to happen, we needed a letter from his doctor confirming his level of dependence. Because of a change in doctors shortly before David passed away this was complicated, finally requiring us to go back to his longterm doctor who wrote the letter for us. We were recently able to get the needed letter and to schedule the internment of David’s remains for this Friday.

On Wednesday, as I sat down to prepare this post, I was struggling. My mind had been focused all day on the upcoming internment, and even though I’d spent time in God’s Word and prayer I was definitely not feeling grateful. The last thing I felt like doing was writing an article on choosing gratefulness. But I knew what needed to be done and chose to do it.

As I did some research on the life of Fanny Crosby for the introduction to the article, God began to change my focus back to where it needed to be. I was once again able to begin walking out the lesson we all are learning through this study, that there are times when we must go against our emotions to choose gratefulness.

The rest of this chapter gives contrasting portraits of these two ways of living. The author names six positive characteristics of a grateful person and the corresponding six negative qualities found in the lives of the ungrateful.

  1. A grateful person is a humble person, while ingratitude reveals a proud heart.
  2. A grateful heart is God-centered and others-conscious, while an ungrateful person is self-centered and self-conscious.
  3. A grateful heart is a full heart, while an unthankful heart is an empty one.
  4. People with grateful hearts are easily contented, while ungrateful people are subject to bitterness and discontent.
  5. A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by thankful words, while an unthankful heart will manifest itself in murmuring and complaining.
  6. Thankful people are refreshing, life-giving springs, while unthankful people pull others down with them into the stagnant pools of their selfish, demanding, unhappy ways.

As Nancy shares these six characteristics of a grateful person and the opposites found in the lives of the ungrateful, she asks us to take assessment of our personal lives.

  • Do you more often manifest a humble, grateful spirit, or a proud, self-sufficient, ungrateful one?
  • Do you tend to be more focused on your own needs and feelings or on what you can do to minister to others and meet their needs?
  • Are you more likely to center your thoughts on what you have or on what you wish you had, on your blessings or on your unmet desires?
  • Are you content with what God has provided, or do you resent difficult circumstances or people and become upset when others fail to live up to your expectations?
  • Are your thoughts more focused on your blessings or your problems?
  • What impact does how you respond to the situations touching your life have on the lives of those around you?
  • When others spend time with you, do they leave feeling refreshed or even more drained than when they came?
  • Which kind of person are you? Which kind of person do you really want to be?

Take time today to ask yourself these questions. And if you don’t like what they reveal about your heart, recognize that only you can decide to make the needed changes.

But also remember God doesn’t call us to make the changes in our own strength. He has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us to both will and to do what pleases Him. Or as Philippians 2:13 says in the New Living Translation, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”