Gratitude is the ability to take the gifts that God gives to us and really experience joy in each of them. There are so many gifts, but we tend to look at our lot and see what is lacking. We miss a lot of the simple joys of life when we fail to see all our abundant gifts from God.
Step 1 in Contentment...Appreciate Imperfect gifts.
- Imperfect bodies
- Imperfect spouses
- Imperfect kids
- Imperfect parents
- Imperfect home
- Imperfect health
- Imperfect church
- Imperfect friends
- Imperfect job
When we got married, I realized that I was marrying an imperfect soul but I know I have often grumbled about my husband because of his many imperfections. No matter how imperfect your spouse is, there are spouses out there that are way worse. I have seen it. There are men out there that beat their wives each day and make them do terrible things. Or they run around on them, abuse their children, etc...
Over the years I learned to really be thankful for my husband because he was kind, honorable, honest, giving, and good to his neighbors. Even though I know he is such a precious gift, I do slip from time to time. Why is that? Why do we start picking at each other and pointing out more of those imperfections?
It is in practicing weighing your gifts in a balance. Like this...
- Our house is crooked and falling apart—but at least we have a home when others do not!
- When your husband comes home late from work and he is tired and can't get to all your many needs—Thank God he came home and that he provides for your financial needs!
- When your health is not great—thank God you are alive!
- When the kids are fighting and they drive you crazy—thank God they are not dying from some incurable disease!
Everyone is happy when everything is going great! But what about when things seem to go wrong? What then?
Step 2 in Achieving Contentment...
Learn to have gratitude for the things that bring fear or frustration.
For example, when I had a major nerve injury, my life changed completely. I would lie awake all night long crying in pain. I can remember the anguish and suffering it caused but also the contentment it produced. It forced me to cling to God every second. I remember lying in that hospital bed writhing in pain and praying for another minute. The burning pain made me think of HELL. Made me appreciate that it was only my foot that was burning and not my whole body.
I had a lot of time lying there for 9 months to think about things. I thought surely as a sinner I deserve to go to hell but Christ saved me. And interestingly, when people would ask me how I was doing, even though I was in the worst pain imaginable, I would respond, "Better than I deserve!"
And now that I am feeling better, it makes everything so much sweeter because I had experienced such pain! So I often praise God for those years of pain because I truly appreciate my ability to serve my family all the more. Pain and suffering, going through periods of hardship changes you! You sometimes do not appreciate what you have until you lose it.
Death is something we all hate, but it brings us to a place where we look back, think of all we have, all those we love, and hold them dear. We often live with regret, "if only I would have spent more time, or appreciated more." It is a wake up call. If only we could forever stay awake to gratitude!
Step 3 in Achieving Contentment...
Learn to be grateful by expressing it.
We are trained to express our gratitude when we FEEL thankful. We can push ourselves to grow spiritually in this area if we express our gratitude even when we DON'T FEEL thankful.
It pushes out of our comfort zone when we say thanks when we are feeling sad, or angry, or bitter, or lonely. All these feelings are negative. We start a bitter pattern of negativity and being thankful is the last thing on our list to worry about.
I was so perplexed as we drove home after church when my kids started "Being Thankful". They listened and we talked about what we learned at church. I mentioned that it seems like there is a lot of negativity in our home. They are always tearing each other down and I pointed out that we ought to be thankful. I said "Let's start our day with some gratitude, Some people in the world have it so much worse than we do."
One of the kids piped up in the back of the car, "I am thankful I am not as ugly as Junior!" and then Junior comes back laughing, "Well I am thankful that I am a better singer than you!" Everyone in the back of the car busts out laughing because they actually think he sings horrible! Wow, this did not work very well.
I was feeling like I was in a strange world as the insults kept racing back and forth in the name of gratitude! We came home, sat around the table, and said a prayer of thanksgiving—ah, yeah, we did that. Then more negativity. The kids laughing and making fun of each other. I just kept my peace—like a pressure canner building steam! Then the dog busts into the kitchen with dirty wet paws from running in the creek. My husband says, "That stupid dog!" Then my top blew! I said, "It's not enough that you all rip each other apart, now the dog?!!!" I threw a chair across the room in my anger. I had it!
Negativity is like a poison it slowly drips into your vein like an IV, and you eventually get so toxic that it can cause a chain reaction and you can become negative too. And the devil knows your buttons. It is very embarrassing to admit that I am so imperfect too! I blow up! I get frustrated. I can get affected by negativity. I spent the next couple days just mad and letting everything get to me! My internet was not working, every day seemed it was full of inconveniences, and obstacles that were beyond my control. And then a phone call. My mother called and she was frustrated about something. That through me over the edge and I was crying and making even more a fool out of myself. Of course, I hurt my mom in the process, which is not very nice!
After I finally saw what I was becoming, I had to get a grip! I had to start being thankful! I was just focusing on the negative! I allowed my feelings to control me, instead of allowing Christ to be in control. I did something very odd after this bout. I picked up the phone and called a friend. I did not feel like it at all. I wanted to keep sulking. But I picked up the phone and decided I wanted to be a blessing to her. I wanted to take my focus off of myself and put the focus on her for a moment.
I asked her how she was doing, and she said "I am okay." She then said, "I did not have a headache today." It changed the course of my entire week! She has migraines all the time and suffers a lot. I have been trying to help her with some natural stuff to take care of her headaches and finally she is feeling a tiny bit better! It made my day. I was so happy for her feeling better. When others hurt, I hurt. I feel the pain. When others are happy and positive, it works also as an IV. The drips of positivity go into my vein like the anecdote to that poison of negativity. It cures it. I got my focus off of myself and it made me feel so thankful for HER!
That is a way to get out of the rut, get out of our comfort zone, and just make someone's day by focusing on them instead of yourself.
If we would rate ourselves on a scale of one to ten, what level of thankfulness are you? One being the least thankful and ten being the most.
What are you today?
Now after you make that honest scoring of yourself, take one minute to list all the things your are thankful for...
One by one.
When I did this, I had about 25 things. I could have kept going, but my time was up.
Are you more thankful? I am!
Expressing and writing down the things you are thankful for is like lifting weights to a body builder. You get stronger in your contentment!
It is a practice we should all do each day, even when we do not feel like it. Just take a minute, just a minute each morning when we wake to think of all the things we can think of that God has graciously given to us in that one tiny space of time. And maybe another minute we could do this exercise as we lay our head back down on our pillow each night. It actually helps us to be more thankful when we remember all that we have.
There is so much to be thankful for.
Lastly, Step 4 to achieving Contentment...
Devote yourself to praising God!
Read the Psalms. "Oh Give Thanks..." is mentioned 26 times in Psalm 136!
When we acknowledge all of our blessings and thank God for each of them we are creating a lifestyle of worship!
"Thank you God for"...
- My eyesight to behold all your beautiful creation
- My ears to hear the songs of birds and laughter of my children
- A house to call home
- A loving family
- Food to eat
- The ability to taste my food and enjoy it
- People who love me
- Your word
- The ability to read and learn many things
- My health
- Salvation in Jesus Christ! The greatest gift of all!
"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."