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Gratitude Is A Choice

“I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.” – Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, from Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy

One of the ladies in God-Living Girls anonymously sent me a copy last year of this excellent book by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on walking in gratitude. As I walk through some major adjustments this year after the loss of our special-needs son David last November, I have picked up this book again to help me as I continue through this season of emotional numbness. I recognize it’s my choice how I will walk through this time of new direction in our lives, and I want this to be a year of blessing the Lord with my words and my life. As the words of a song we have been singing recently at our church say, “Yes I will lift You high in the lowest valley, Yes I will bless Your name. Oh, yes I will sing for joy when my heart is heavy. For all my days, oh yes I will.”

No matter what you are currently walking through, you have a choice to make concerning your attitude as you walk through it. Ann Voskamp said, “Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in the midst of whatever challenges we’re facing, we need to be people who give thanks.”

God wants to meet us where we are – whether in the deepest valley or the mountaintop experience. But God doesn’t force us to do His will. He gives us the freedom of choice to say “Yes” or “No” to what pleases Him. I am saying “Yes” to making this a season of worship and gratitude, and I hope you will join me in this decision… because no matter what you are currently walking through, God is still good. He is still loving. He is still faithful. And He still deserves an attitude of gratefulness and praise from His children.

If giving thanks is based on our circumstances, our lives will be up one day and down the next. This isn’t how God calls us to live. But when we worship God in the midst of the pain, we are expressing confidence that even this will be molded in God’s capable hands for our good and for His glory. When we express thanks to God while walking through a circumstance we don’t like, we are demonstrating faith and trust that God is in control and acknowledging His Lordship in our lives. When we choose to be intentionally observant about the things in our lives for which we should be grateful, we are choosing a life of pleasing God instead of a self-focused life.

I’m walking through a season when giving thanks to God every day must be an intentional choice, so I’m making time in my busy schedule to read one chapter a week in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. I’ll probably be sharing some of the insights I receive from this book in future Thankful Thursday posts. I will also continue using the app Gratitude as a part of my daily quiet time, because being grateful must be an intentional choice in my life right now.

If you’re walking through a season where being grateful must be intentional, ask God to show you what He wants you to do to grow in this discipline of giving thanks in every situation. Remember, giving God thanks during the hard times is a declaration – to our emotions, to those watching our lives, and to the enemy of our souls who wants us to ignore this instruction from God’s Word – that we believe God is good, no matter what we are walking through.

Changing the Wilderness into Rivers of Living Water

In the life of a Christian, a “wilderness experience” often involves emotional or financial drought, even spiritual drought, but is not necessarily a sign that a believer is walking in sin. God may seem far away, but in truth He is present and actively at work. These tough seasons of the Christian life are times of testing from God, seasons that God allows to help us grow to a new level in our faith.

As I look back on the final months of 2018 for our family, I think they could easily be described as a “wilderness experience.” From late August through December, we experienced great loss, including cancelled homeowners insurance due to the deteriorated condition of our home, financial stress caused by debt, the loss of our thirty-four year old special-needs son David, and new health problems that are still not resolved. This has been a very difficult season, one that has left me feeling weak and weary.

Isaiah 43:19, a Scripture that speaks of God “doing a new thing” is routinely used as we begin a new year. Yet the familiar message includes a promise I am standing on as we begin 2019. As 2019 begins, I am ready for God to do a new thing in my life. I’m in need of relief and refreshment. God promises to make a way in the wilderness, even bring rivers in the desert. And while I don’t know what you have walked through in recent months, in my current circumstances that is GOOD NEWS!

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Now it’s your turn. Is there a promise from Scripture you are holding onto for 2019? If so, let’s encourage one another by sharing them in the comments. Let’s begin this new year by holding onto God’s promises, in the confidence that He will be faithful to His Word.

Receiving God’s Truth When It’s Uncomfortable

Today I am grateful for…

Truth God speaks to me through His Word, even when it’s not the specific truth I’m wanting to hear. Receiving God’s truth – not my hand-picked, preferred truth, but what my loving heavenly Father wants to teach me through my circumstances – is a blessing even when it may cause some temporary discomfort.

Earlier this week, I was hurting emotionally. During the same week as our son David’s memorial service, I was diagnosed with an infestation of scabies, with over thirty-five itchy bites around my body, caused by microscopic “human itch mites” (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). I was feeling overwhelmed by yet another problem to deal with on top of working through the grief of losing our beloved son David.

In the midst of agitated emotions, I asked God to speak to me through His Word. He spoke and I almost missed His message because it wasn’t what I was wanting to hear.

  • I wanted a comforting word. God wanted to teach me that He is in charge, He’s sovereign and I need to yield to His decisions.
  • I wanted relief. He wanted spiritual growth.
  • I wanted encouragement. He wanted me to accept responsibility for responding to my circumstances in a way that honors Him.

Father, thank You for speaking the truth to our hearts that is tailor-made for where we are currently walking. When Your truth is uncomfortable, please give us the grace to embrace it and grow.

So how do we walk in an attitude of gratitude when we don’t like what God is doing in our lives? When we wish our circumstances were different? When in our emotions we are anything but thankful?

This requires us to look for God’s truths that apply to what we are walking through. Then it calls for us to A. C. T. (All verses in ESV)

A. ACKNOWLEDGE God is God and I am not

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10

C. CONCEDE that His purposes in my situation are for my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬)

T. THANK HIM for His character attributes that apply to my circumstances.

For the last five months, as our family has walked through one trial after another as God does a deep work in our lives, one attribute of God has been central in my understanding of what God is doing in my life: the Hebrew word “checed” (חֶסֶד), for which there is no one English word that fully explains it’s meaning. This one Hebrew word includes the ideas of God’s strength, graciousness, loyalty, steadfastness, mercy, love and devotion to His people. The NIV usually translates it “unfailing love,” NASB “lovingkindness,” ESV “steadfast love.” This single Hebrew word is one of God’s most central characteristics, used 240 times throughout the Old Testament.

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:10)‬ ‭‬

Is God wanting to speak truths to you through His Word, possibly truths that aren’t really what you’re wanting to hear? Are you facing a situation that makes it difficult to give thanks to God? Embrace what the Lord is speaking to you. Then A.C.T. on what you are hearing.

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COUNTING OUR BLESSINGS

Thanksgiving is a good day to pause and take some time to count your blessings.

Dr. Tony Evans gives the following definition of a blessing in his book Victory in Spiritual Warfare.

“A blessing is your capacity to enjoy what God has given you with a spirit of contentment, ease, and satisfaction while simultaneously being a blessing to others.”

James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV).‬

Some of the good gifts God gives are material. Others are spiritual blessings. One of my favorite songs during this Thanksgiving season is Counting Every Blessing, by Rend Collective. This song makes it clear that God sends blessings in every season and reminds us to look for the signs of His goodness no matter what we are currently walking through.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s pause and ask ourselves if we are receiving what God has given us with intentional gratitude. In other words, are we grateful for what God has given, satisfied that it meets our needs and content with the provision? If so, even little things provided by God are received as evidence of His goodness.

 

The Benefits of Choosing an Attitude of Gratitude

In recent weeks, my life has been enriched by a Bible study and video series by Tony Evans that our iConnect Bible study class at church has been going through. So when I noticed the following quote on gratefulness by Tony Evans it caught my attention.

“God says to give thanks in everything. That doesn’t mean you need to give thanks FOR everything. You don’t need to give thanks FOR that bad day. Or FOR that bad relationship. Or being passed over at work. Financial hardship. Whatever it is – you are not to give thanks FOR the difficulties, but rather IN the difficulties. That is a very important distinction, and one I think we often miss. Giving thanks IN everything shows a heart of faith that God is bigger than the difficulties and that He can use them, if you approach Him with the right heart and spirit, for your good and His glory.”

Giving thanks in difficulties is an expression of our faith in a good God. It is a practical discipline that teaches us to see our tough circumstances from God’s perspective.

The last several months of my life have been filled with circumstances I would never have chosen. Financial difficulties, needed home repairs that in the natural are an unsurmountable obstacle, a hospitalization with our special needs son David and then his sudden death two weeks ago have made this one of the most challenging seasons of my life.

And yet as I look back on what God has done in my life during this period, I’m amazed. I’ve experienced peace that surpasses all understanding in the loss of our son, a dreaded event which had previously been my biggest source of anxiety. I’ve grown in my knowledge of God more than during any other recent season of life. And as I’ve gotten to know the Lord more intimately, I’ve fallen freshly in love with Him.

Are you facing a situation that you never would have chosen? Realize there is a reason God allowed the details of what you’re going through to touch your life. Recognize He is at work through your circumstances to bring you to a new depth of relationship with Him, to a new level of spiritual maturity as suffering works to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ.

Today, decide to look for the good in your life. Spend time with the Lord, asking Him to help you see your circumstances as He sees them. Focus on the little blessings you see in the midst of the pain – and if you’re like me, I suspect you’ll find they aren’t so little.

Take time today – and every day – to choose an attitude of gratitude to God. And before long, I suspect you’ll find your entire attitude toward life will begin to change. That’s definitely what’s happened in my life – in spite of the fact that the trials our family has been walking through have no end in sight.

 

Gratefulness and Grace

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬ ‭ESV‬‬

During one of my times studying God’s Word this week, I made an interesting discovery. The Greek word translated “thanks” in this verse from 1 Corinthians 15 is “charis,” the same word that is translated “grace” throughout the New Testament. This was a reminder to me of how closely related grace and gratefulness are in the life of a Christian.

Grace has been defined as “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” (Blue Letter Bible)

In simpler words, God’s grace is the kindness He shows daily to the unworthy. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. It is a free gift, given to us because God is benevolent. Giving good gifts is a part of His nature.

Grace is what saves us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9)‬

Grace‭ trains us how to live lives that are pleasing to God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” (Titus‬ ‭2:11-12‬)‬‬

Grace gives us access to God in our times of need. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews‬ ‭4:16)‬ ‭‬‬

Grace gives us comfort and hope. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:16-17‬)

Grace gives us a future inheritance to anticipate, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:7‬)

As believers in Jesus Christ, giving thanks for the many blessings we receive through His grace should be a daily practice.

Recently, God has been doing a good work in my life, one that has sometimes been painful but one that has always been by His grace. As a result, I’m beginning to walk in victory in several areas of my life where victory is a new experience. And for that, I want to give Him thanks. Will you join me today in giving thanks for what He is doing in your life?

 

Grateful For Grace

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These two verses have taken on new meaning in my life this week, each time I glance out the window or walk out the front door of our home and see one of God’s good gifts sitting in our driveway! After over a year of praying for the Lord to make a way for our family to replace our vehicle that stopped running over a year ago, His gift of provision is a daily reminder of two important truths of Scripture: that our God answers prayer in His own way and His perfect timing, and that His gifts are given because He is a God of grace and goodness, not because of anything we have or ever could do to earn them.

When the Lord provides for a major need in our lives in a way we would have never come up with in our wildest imagination, being grateful comes easy. The words on a neighborhood church sign that we drove by on our way home from the car dealer with our new mini-van last Friday said it perfectly: “God works in unexpected ways!” I never would have come up with the idea of meeting this need through a retired widow living on a fixed income, one who has been a prayer warrior for our family for many years.

The provision to purchase a vehicle without adding to our debt came on the very last day of a month when God had been speaking many life-changing truths to my heart through an e-book by Andrew Murray entitled Waiting On God: A 31-Day Study. This timely study had reminded me that God works in His timing, that as we wait for Him to work in our circumstances He is first doing a needed work in us, that we must wait patiently as we focus on losing our will in His perfect will, that the Giver is greater than the gift and our waiting on Him is the only way to learn to find our life and joy in Him. These truths and a long series of other important reminders of God’s ways during the waiting have been a source of strength during the painful and stretching month of September.

But of all God has spoken to me in this amazing provision, what has stood out above all else are six short words spoken by the leader of our church iConnect Bible study class last Sunday morning, a dear friend who along with his wife has been walking with my husband and me through a situation that is still very much in progress, one where God is doing a major overhaul on our lives. The simple words, “What a gift of God’s grace!”

The very nature of God’s grace is that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. It is an undeserved gift from God. Faith is a part of the progress, but even that doesn’t earn us anything good from God. Scripture teaches a pathway to grace that God has been walking us down during this past six weeks, the pathway of humility. As James 4:6-10 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

This week as I rejoice in the good gift God has given our family since my last Thankful Thursday post, I am equally grateful for the spiritual truths He has reminded me of during this situation we have been and still are walking through. As we move forward from here, the turning around of the overall situation we are dealing with is still definitely a work in progress. The work in my husband’s life and in my life are also still very much works in progress. But the lessons God has been teaching us about His character and His ways are settled a little deeper in our lives. And they are unchanging. ‭‭We don’t know what lies ahead of us in the coming months. But we do know our God and His ways a little better than when this season first began.