Gratitude is one of the most important attitudes that we should cultivate. When I was a family caregiver for my first husband, Wayne, it was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of watching my husband's body deteriorate step by step. Life became so very overwhelming at times. Life as a widow also involved moments of grief and challenge for me. Although remarried, life continues to have struggles and challenges. That is the nature of life on this earth.
Yet there have been many awesome answers to prayer also in the last years in my life. One of them is the recent successful life-giving surgery of my sister, Nancy. God has worked in amazing ways in other struggles in my life in the last years as well. He further daily brings blessings sometimes through the beauties of creation and sometimes through other people.
When I begin to struggle with life's difficult moments, I have learned that the course of action that helps me most is to write down a few things each day for which I am thankful. This simple practice helps to open my eyes to the little wonders and love gifts of God which are still all around me in my life. I now often write down things for which I am thankful that day based on the promises I find in the Bible in my morning devotions as well as other blessings that I see transpiring in my life.
I think gratitude has to go even further than writing down a few things for which I am thankful each day, however. It has to be a heart attitude. In the measure I experience this heart attitude in spite of difficult circumstances, there will be joy and peace.
A few years ago I read a book by Nancy Leigh De Moss called Choosing Gratitude. It is a book I would like to relocate and read again. In one chapter she listed eight reasons for a grateful heart in spite of circumstances. One reason is that gratitude is a matter of obedience. It is commanded by God throughout His Word especially in the Psalms and the New Testament Epistles, Gratitude also draws us closer to God. When we long for a greater sense of God's nearness or life's stresses pile up, gratitude to the Lord is the gateway to the Lord's presence.
Gratitude is further the only sure path to peace. Life difficulties can pile up and become overwhelming. Prayer is a good avenue of release, but it must be accompanied with gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7.) When gratitude combines with prayer and we open our eyes to God's blessings and mercies even in the midst of heartaches, peace follows. When we thank God even when we can't understand what He is doing in our lives, there is peace.
Gratitude is also a gauge to our heart. It is often easy to be thankful for the obvious blessings. It is less easy to be thankful for the more difficult and hard to understand blessings. If one is thankful in all things, it shows a heart which believes that God is always faithful and good and can be trusted. Giving thanks in all things is not acquired in a moment. It is the result of many choices to be thankful even in difficult moments.
Gratitude is the will of God. Choosing it is more important than choices we make about any other of life's decisions. All other life decisions pale in comparison to choosing gratitude. Gratitude is proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is evidence that we are yielding to His control. Gratitude further reflects Jesus' heart. Even the night before Jesus was put on the cross He showed gratitude to the Heavenly Father in His prayers at the Last Supper. He gratefully and willingly submitted to the Father's will in spite of the horrors of the cross just before Him.
Finally, gratitude prepares us for heaven. Think of all the saints in heaven praising God before His throne. My first husband is no longer suffering from his neurological disease, but he is praising God before His throne right now! So are other loved ones who have gone on before me. I too can join in that praise by thanking and praising the Lord now. Life is often difficult. Yet in the measure we thank God in and even for the difficulties peace will follow. Resolve with me to walk that path, dear reader.