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.
- A grateful person is a humble person, while ingratitude reveals a proud heart.
- A grateful heart is God-centered and others-conscious, while an ungrateful person is self-centered and self-conscious.
- A grateful heart is a full heart, while an unthankful heart is an empty one.
- People with grateful hearts are easily contented, while ungrateful people are subject to bitterness and discontent.
- A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by thankful words, while an unthankful heart will manifest itself in murmuring and complaining.
- 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.”