3 Ways to a Heart of Gratitude
By Evelyn Reams | November 24, 2021 | Return to Blog
Long before Thanksgiving even arrives, we are accosted with shopping advertisements, flashy lights, and other harbingers of a commercialized form of Christmas that would have made shepherds quake at the sight. In the midst of the rush, it is easy to be carried along and forget to carefully tend our inner lives with God. Gratitude, not discontent, should rule our hearts, but how can we stay in that place?
When we look in the Bible, there are countless places where gratitude is mentioned and lived out, but today we will hear from three Biblical writers from diverse time periods, cultures, and personal lives: Job, Habakkuk, and Paul. What did these three men all have in common? Despite the great sorrow and trial they experienced throughout their lives, they somehow continued to praise God. Their outlook on life is an inspiration to us all in 3 defining ways:
1) Their hope was in God, not their circumstances
Habakkuk provides a wonderful example of looking beyond the present to see God’s eternal plan. In the earlier sections of the book, the prophet essentially asks for God to execute short-term justice on the groups who were oppressing others on the earth. “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” He questions. After hearing God explain the plan He has for the end of time, Habakkuk trembles in awe of what is to come. He realizes that although God’s answers to prayer don’t always look like we want them to, his presence alone is enough to bring joy back. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines”, He is King over the expanse of both what we call time and what comes after.
2) They lived as citizens of Heaven
Philippians 4:13 has been quoted countless times, but context is the key to the meaning of doing “all things” through Christ. Much more than a feel-good mantra to put on a t-shirt, this passage is an important part of a continuous letter. Chapter 3 explains that the world is full of darkness and evil manipulation, but “Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:20). This is the source of our joy. When the next chapter begins with a crucial “Therefore,” we realize that because of heavenly citizenship, we are able to do all things–whether enduring hardship or enjoying times of blessing–through Christ, who strengthens us as we await His return.
For those of us who live in developed countries, it is all too easy to forget these blessings. May we take this season as an opportunity to not only remember those who are less fortunate, but to act as ambassadors of the Kingdom of heaven. This time of year, there are many chances to reach out in our own communities to lend a smile and helping hand.
3) They overcame doubt with steadfast faith
The book of Job is a rich account of a grieving man’s dialogue with the Most High. When Job loses his children, wealth, and personal health, he succumbs to sadness. Even though like many of us would, he goes a little too far in justifying his own actions, what is unusual is Job’s refusal to blame God. He rails against the day he was born and sits wretched in ash and despair, but never once does he deny God’s holiness.
Although several friends try to cast seeds of doubt in Job’s heart, steadfast faith in God enables him to persevere. For this reason, at the end of the book, God rebukes the three unwise friends, saying, “Sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. Then My servant Job will pray for you, for I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken accurately about Me, as My servant Job has.” (42:8) A fourth speaker, the young Elihu, notably does not try to mischaracterize God’s actions. He reminds them all that God is just even when it seems evil is gaining the upper hand. “Who has...told Him, ‘You have done wrong’? Remember to magnify His work.” (36:23-24)
Whether our hearts are anointed with comfort and joy or loss and grief, we too can take hold of the faith championed by Habakkuk, Paul, and Job. In the end, gratitude is much more than an attitude; it is a recognition of where our sustenance lies. Whatever the next season may hold, our security rests in God’s mighty hand. If we are found in Him we can do all things, in this life and into the next.