From the wellspring of gratitude all virtues flow.
This quote ruined me. Right smack in the middle of a pity party. Lonely on a team of amazing people. Trying to figure out how to feed my kiddos with the equivalent of a Bunsen burner and Easy-Bake oven. Tired of coal dust and roof rats. Wishing for hot water and reliable electricity. Beyond, sooooo beyond, the honeymoon and adventure of cross cultural living.
But of all the things I didn’t like about that season, my crummy ungrateful attitude topped the list. I needed to figure out how to be emotionally authentic while being rooted in gratitude. That’s a nice way of saying, how to be honest about what you are experiencing without whining and complaining. Or how to tell your friends how you are REALLY doing without making them wish they hadn’t asked.
Since those days, I’ve had some practice learning how to “give thanks in every circumstance”. Here are my go-to’s to help me choose gratitude.
1. Look for the kindness and favor of God in the hard places.
Joseph is my biblical superhero. His story of integrity, perseverance, and faithfulness in the midst of injustice inspires me to live differently than my circumstances dictate. If Joseph can experience God’s presence, kindness and favor while imprisoned (Genesis 39), surely I can find the same if I just look.
Although few of us are actually in prison, many of us do dwell in places of circumstantial limits and undeserved harshness. Places we feel overlooked, alone, misunderstood, abandoned. What would change if you looked for and acknowledged God’s active kindness and favor in these places?
2. Rejoice in our redemption.
Check out Habakkuk 3:17-19: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls…” Feel you are not flourishing? Not thriving? Not experiencing abundance? Read on, my friend.
“…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” The invitation to be partakers in God’s big story means we have the most beautiful, valuable treasure available to humanity. How would shifting your focus to the gift of redemption influence your thoughts?
3. Look at old photos.
A bit like pondering on stones of remembrance, images of the people and places I love remind me what a privileged life I live. Psalm 16 comes to life in those images, “You have assigned my portion and my cup. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” So, even if today doesn’t feel all that wonderful, I can choose gratefulness knowing this is the life chosen for me by the One who loves me best.
How about you? How do you stay emotionally authentic while being rooted in gratitude?
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