“Scripture says, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it’s given Him from heaven.’ If you could understand that one biblical truth it would change your life forever. The way we say it around here is this, ‘You can’t give me what God has not, and you can’t keep me from what God has.’ If we would actually begin to believe that at a soul-level, that everything we have is from Him, there would be no jealousy, no co-dependence, no comparing, no complaining, no envy, and no coveting. It would free you up to rejoice when others are blessed. It would bring you freedom in so many ways. If we truly believed this, that would be called PEACE.” – Pastor Joby Martin (I know I quote him a lot, but the man has a freakin’ gift of saying things in a way I’ve never heard before.)
So if we believe the above to be true, if we believe what the Bible says, then why is it so hard to live with a grateful heart? I’ll tell you why: our culture and our selfish, wandering hearts (ouch!) We are blessed to live in the United States, where consumption is key, and everything our little hearts could desire is literally at the click of a button. Our culture is constantly telling us that what we have isn’t enough, and that we have to compete with the Jones’, the Smith’s, and the well, whoever else. Our culture or the smart marketing geniuses in retail, set it up so that right when we get an upgrade, a newer version comes out making us feel like what we now have is crap. We live in a culture where we compare ourselves and what we have to everyone else constantly, and most of the time we’re comparing it all to a highlight reel or an airbrushed version of someone else. All of these things are against us, and making it very hard to live with a grateful heart.
I think one of the enemy’s favorite schemes for us westerners is helping us be constantly discontent. If you’re like me, your heart is prone to wander away from the only real source of life. God must look at me like a little toddler, “Oh Carol, that again? She’ll never learn.” (His head shaking with a smirk on his face). THANK YOU, GOD, FOR GRACE, and that He never lets me wander too far over the cliff.
The truth is that if we’ve truly experienced the grace of God on our lives, if we truly have experienced the free gift of grace when we didn’t deserve it, and the gift that keeps giving every single morning, then we can choose to look at our lives, all that He has given us, and live with a posture of gratitude. This is something I’ll always struggle with, but I have a few things that always help me:
Remind yourself that that “thing” you want so badly will not satisfy like you think it will. Another “Joby-ism” I like to call it is, “the cul-de-sac of stupidity.” Basically what it means is that we, as humans, go round and round in this cul-de-sac, thinking that the next thing will fully and finally satisfy, only to realize once again, it doesn’t. We want a raise, if only we could get this much more, then when you do, you find yourself there again pretty quickly. If only you could get a house in that neighborhood, a few years go by and that house just isn’t cutting it. Now you want a new house in the other neighborhood. The list goes on and on. So for me, I have to remind myself, that “thing” I think I want so badly, just will NOT finally and fully satisfy like I think it will. So, I’m honest with God about it, and give that desire up to Him, even if I have to do it every day.
Make a gratitude list. I stole this idea from our pastor. He said to make a gratitude list, one thing for every year you’ve been alive. Keep it on your phone, and anytime you start to feel entitled instead of grateful, read your list. I’ve now made several lists, and anytime I’m feeling like I’m owed something I don’t have or caught up in comparing or wanting something someone else has, I stop and read over my list, thanking God. He didn’t have to give me all that I have now, so what makes me think I’m owed something I may feel is better? He knows what’s best for us, and I have to trust in that. And when I read my list, and think of all the blessings in my life, I can’t help but kick myself for feeling anything other than grateful.
Each morning when I start out my prayer, I try and start with thankfulness for all He’s given me. I feel like something supernatural happens when you start out prayer with thankfulness. It’s like it ushers you into the presence of God in a way starting out with requests or to-do’s just doesn’t do. And then, on those days you don’t even know what to pray, start out with thanking God and somehow you start to feel and hear Him. I think the power of starting our prayer with thanking Him is that it helps posture our hearts from feeling entitled or frustrated, to grateful and reverent.
Contentment is a secret that’s actually offered in Scripture. Paul says in Philippians that he’s learned the secret. Which means, he wants us to learn it too. And I think the secret is to preach the Gospel to yourself every day. Thank God every day for your gratitude list. And, most importantly, abide in Jesus, or simply put, stay close to Him. Bring those desires to Him, and He’ll either bless you with what you’re wanting, or through prayer it will purify your desire for that thing. I’ve literally been praying for something and talked myself out of it during the prayer. I think when we stay close to Him, it helps us see life in view of eternity and not get caught up in the worldly stuff (as much). I’m going to CHOOSE each day to be grateful for everything He’s given me, from Daniel and Kennedy to our home and our jobs. I didn’t deserve any of the things I have today, so I’ll choose to live joyfully grateful for all of it. Or when my coveting starts to creep in as I’m watching HGTV, I’ll remind myself of what I actually deserved and how blessed I really am.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12
So, whenever I write about something it’s usually because it’s something I’m struggling with too! Help hold me accountable, and I’ll be praying for all of you as well! Let’s be the generation of strong women who live with grateful hearts.