Gratitude should exist beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christians can live out their faith and display the character of Jesus by having gratitude every day of the year, even during difficult times.
Anticipation or dread. We each cling to one of these at the thought of the holidays. For many families, the holidays offer the perfect opportunity to reflect on blessings of the last year and to showcase our gratitude.
But for other families, bad memories, broken relationships, and tough times wreak havoc on emotions and steal not only gratitude, but also the magical moments of happiness that the season brings for some and not for others. It doesn’t seem fair.
Doesn’t the Lord want everyone to experience joy during the holidays?
Yes, He does. However, our King wants more for us. He desires us to experience joy not only in the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas, but to live a life filled with joy every day. (Spoiler: Joy doesn’t come from circumstances—it comes from above.)
Now, how do you find joy when circumstances of life rise and fall like the stormy waves of the sea? Well, for starters, stop looking at all those waves and find the beauty in the sea.
Find the things you can be thankful for and cultivate gratitude.
You might be wondering: How can I have gratitude in the midst of all these struggles and disappointments?
I find one possible answer when I read about Hannah in 1 Samuel. She exchanges her bad attitude with a thankful heart. She understands the importance of this statement:
Don’t let a negative attitude take your gratitude, but do let gratitude transform your attitude.Don’t let a negative attitude take your gratitude, but do let gratitude transform your attitude. Click To Tweet
The Power of Attitude and Gratitude
Last week I couldn’t shake my negative attitude. I felt frustrated by a cold that left me exhausted and worn out and fought with the loneliness that comes with being a stay-at-home mom. Then there was disappointment in myself for being impatient with my children and doubts in my endeavor to start a blogging ministry.
My husbands’ crazy work schedule and its effect on our family plagued me the worst, though. The almost four months of 15+ hour days, six days a week, picked away at my joy until grumbling beat out gratitude.
Do you ever let a negative attitude steal your gratitude?
I could blame and even try to validate my negative attitude on my personal struggles, but no attitude stems from circumstances. It roots itself in emotions.
If you look up attitude in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary it alludes to the fact that a negative attitude develops from “a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state.¹” How true this is! How often have you allowed a situation to dictate how you feel? I fight with this on a daily basis.
Gratitude couldn’t be more different than attitude.
Gratitude exists regardless of emotion or the comings and goings of life. It radiates thankfulness in spite of circumstances—not because of them.Click To Tweet
The power of gratitude lies in the unfailing truth that blessings abound amidst the struggles because God is always by our side.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all (Psalms 34:19, KJ V).”
The Cultivation of Gratitude
Last week’s bad attitude didn’t last long and thankfully the power of gratitude prevailed as I prayed to God and worshiped Him for His greatness. Sure, some of the stuff in my life stunk, but I serve a mighty God and for that I can have gratitude in all situations. Can’t you?
When thinking about the cultivation of gratitude, I’m drawn to the instruction of Paul found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (KJV):
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Seems like God’s formula to cultivating gratitude to me.
But how do we get to the point of being able to do those three things when circumstances burden us?
Hannah knew a thing or two about burdens. You can read about them in 1 Samuel 1, but here’s the quick rundown:
Hannah shared her husband with Peninnah, a bitter and jealous woman who tirelessly tormented Hannah, especially because of her infertility. Peninnah mothered several children while Hannah prayed for the Lord to give her just one. This caused Hannah much suffering during this time of wait. To make matters worse, society looked down upon Hannah because women of her time were deemed failures when they could not bear children.
The Way to Gratitude
Can you imagine the hurt Hannah must have felt each day? It’s no surprise that she grew depressed with the weight of it all.
But it’s what she did during her depression that catches my eye. She began to cultivate gratitude by taking action rather than allowing her aching heart to fully consume her.
HANNAH TRUSTED GOD
Another blog post could be written on Hannah’s patience for God’s perfect timing. But today, let’s focus on the fact that in order to cultivate gratitude, you have to put your trust in God and His timing.
Hannah endured heartache for years as she patiently waited for God to answer her prayer for a child. Does that mean that she was shielded from sadness? No, absolutely not. She faced deep despair like the rest of us. However, she never stopped seeking God through her weeping and refusal to eat (Samuel 1:7) because she understood that God loved her and would supply her needs.
HANNAH PRAYED TO GOD
It’s kind of impossible to find gratitude amidst doom and gloom. Hannah knew that. When grief stole her gratitude, she poured out all of her “bitterness of soul” to God through prayer. She handed over her problem to Him and He accepted it.
She pushed out the anguish in her heart and invited gratitude in to fill its space.
I fear the simplicity of prayer prevents many who are hurting from using it. Pain can run so deep that it’s easy to believe that no one can dig it out and cast it away.
But God can.
In 1 Samuel 1:18, after Hannah’s very honest prayer, God takes away her sadness and restores her heart.
HANNAH WORSHIPED GOD
When we worship God, we respect and honor our Heavenly Father for all that He is—the God of love, hope, and peace, the mighty creator of life, the Lord who heals and comforts. But He’s much more, isn’t He?
Colossians 1:17 (KJV) tells us that
“…He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”
Hannah got this. She knew that God exists before all things, created all things, and controls all things.
The morning after her sorrowful prayer, Hannah worshiped God because she remembered something that is too easy to forget when we focus on our problems instead of focusing on God. She remembered God’s everlasting love.
Do you ever get so lost in your hurting that you lose sight of the Comforter?
No matter what happened in Hannah’s life, or happens in ours, we can hold on to God’s love and be grateful for the healing that comes from it.
The Bounty Of Gratitude
Gratitude doesn’t come by chance. Pushing aside stubborn emotions and enduring unchanging situations while waiting on God takes a lot of hard work. It’s a continual process of recognizing emotions and uncontrollable events, giving them to God through prayer, and embracing the worship-worthiness of our King.
The benefits of gratitude make the labor worth it because when you are living a life of gratitude, your experiencing it’s bounty, and oh, how sweet it is. A heart of gratitude has so much more in it than a heart with a negative attitude. It has…
With a grateful heart Hannah could not hide the joy she had in knowing that God was her rock and salvation. In 1 Samuel 1:2 (KJV) she said: “…My heart rejoiceth in the Lord…”
By God’s grace, Hannah overcame her emotions and casts aside the negative people and situations in her life. How was she able to do this? She realized that she couldn’t control people or situations. Instead, she placed her confidence in the Lord and in His power to control everything from rich and poor to life and death (1 Samuel 2:3-8).
Faith comes when we put our confidence in the Lord and when we hope for the things He promises to us. In the first part of 1 Samuel 2:9, Hannah displays this faith when she recognizes that God will take care of all His children.
Hannah experienced victory when God answered her prayer for a child, but that isn’t the victory of a heart filled with gratitude (because remember gratitude isn’t based on circumstances!). The victory Hannah talks about in 1 Samuel 2:10 is our victory over death. No matter what happens here on Earth, that most precious gift will always be ours.
What three truths about God are you most grateful for this holiday season?