Gratitude Requires Effort

This is the transcript from a devotional I led today at MOTS at LCBC.

Lately I’ve been studying the importance of remembering as I prepare to write again.

I’m not talking about remembering to-do lists or any of the seemingly endless things that we, as moms, need to remember on a daily basis, though I wish there were a remedy for that. I’ve specifically been studying remembering who God is and what He has done, and how that helps us find joy even when life doesn’t go the way we think it should.

As I prayed about and prepared for today and the theme of gratitude, I kept thinking about remembering. I then realized that remembering is KEY to gratitude.

Between Exodus and Deuteronomy, God reminds the Israelites about all He did for them 57 times. These are the same people who saw Him do miracles in Egypt and were set free from slavery by His power, saw Him part the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land, saw Him rain manna from the sky so they could eat, saw His presence in the form of a cloud and of fire while they wandered in the wilderness.

When they forgot who God was and what He had done, especially when they faced challenging situations, they became ungrateful. Discontent. Eager to worship whatever came their way next, or whatever they could make (like a Golden Calf).

They had SEEN God’s presence daily, and yet they wanted to go back to Egypt, as slaves. There are other examples of this happening throughout the Bible, ones like Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When he allowed the sound of the storm to become his focus, He sank.

If those who walked with God/Jesus could forget and question Him when times were less than ideal, how much more do we need to be purposeful about remembering Him and finding reasons to be grateful.

Let’s look at some verses (click the verse to read the passage):

Psalm 100

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Ephesians 5:15-20

Colossians 2:7

Colossians 3:12-15, 17

Hebrews 12:28

Philippians 4:4-14

Psalm 52:9

Psalm 69:1-3, 13-14, 16, 29-32

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Scripture regarding gratitude, but I wanted to show passages about being joyful no matter what, and being joyful when it’s difficult.

As I was praying about what to say today, I kept coming back to things for which I’m not grateful. People for which I’m not grateful. Situations for which I’m definitely not grateful.

I know you have these, too.

I don’t mean being ungrateful – that implies taking things for granted. I’m specifically talking about being not grateful, as in you’d be so much more grateful if whatever this thing/person/situation is wasn’t in your life.

How do we reconcile these feelings with what the Bible commands, which is to be thankful always?

I want you to think of your one thing/person/situation. Maybe nothing comes to mind, but I’d be surprised. Complicated relationships. Friends who walk out of your life. Financial troubles. It could be anything that is causing you to wonder if God really cares, if He remembers you.

Now, I want you to come up with one reason for which you can be grateful for whatever your thing is. Maybe there isn’t one, but I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one thing you can find.

If I can find reasons to be thankful regarding my daughter’s death, I think there’s probably gratitude to be found in any situation. I don’t say this lightly, because I have found that gratitude for all that God has done and is doing is a powerful thing.

Many of you know my story, but for those who don’t, my daughter, Tori, went to Heaven at 20 months of age after fighting a terminal genetic disease called Krabbe Leukodystrophy for 14 months.

After Tori went to Heaven (on Easter Sunday 2016), we took time to look at all that had happened in the two weeks prior and we could not deny the hand of God in every detail. To read more, click here.

Gratitude filled our hearts and we were overjoyed at His care, even when we didn’t even realize what was happening.

March 27, 2016 was the weirdest day of our lives, but NOT the hardest. Because we took the time to see the hand of God in those two weeks prior to her heaven – going, we were overwhelmed, not by grief, but by JOY. Gratitude. Faith.

Why am I talking about this and asking you to be grateful? Because gratitude sets us free in difficult situations. Gratitude is an antidote to so many things: bitterness, resentment, sorrow, pain, pride, you name it. Once we find one reason to be grateful, it’s often much easier to find even more. And, once we realize that our gratitude is not about our circumstances, we find an indescribable joy.

Ingesting life’s difficulties and tragic events can be overwhelming. Having a heart of gratitude, therefore, is not about looking at the bright side of things. And it’s not even acknowledging that things could be worse. Our thankfulness is never to be based on a set of circumstances. It’s based on a Person…Practicing gratitude rests soundly in the assuredness that God will ultimately redeem every horrible situation in this life or the next. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

“When we discipline our hearts and our lives to see that all is grace we are filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything.” – Sam Luce

If we acknowledge that God can use whatever is happening for His purposes, if we take the time to look for His hand at work, if we remember that He will redeem all of this, we will be at peace, just like Philippians 4 tells us. But, it takes purposeful reflection and intentional remembering of who the Lord is and what He has done.

Gratitude is not always easy. Sometimes it’s difficult and may even seem impossible. But, I promise it isn’t. The Bible tells us that we can see God at work every day, in every situation- but we have to be willing to look. Train your heart and mind to look for God at work around you daily and you will train your heart to be grateful.

The discipline of gratitude has brought us such peace even in the midst of a parent’s worst nightmare, because we are focused on the truth of who God is – a loving, gracious Father who loves us more than we can fathom, and who works all things for our good because we trust Him. He is a Redeemer, and He will redeem all of this someway, somehow. It has allowed us to say, “Even so, we are thankful. We are joyful.”

I want to finish with one of my favorite passages – it demonstrates so well the sovereignty of the God we serve:

Isaiah 40: 25-31 –
“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

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