When I was a little girl, one of our family’s holiday traditions was that my brothers and I each got to open one gift on Christmas Eve.
Every year, we spent most of December carefully examining the presents that appeared beneath the tree. And, by Christmas Eve, the gift we had chosen to open was the most coveted one under the tree!
One year, when I was about eight, my brother, Lawson, and I both chose gifts from our Aunt Patti. She was young and hip, knew what kinds of presents kids liked, and joined us that year for Christmas Eve.
Lawson went first. He carefully removed the wrappings, and there was a brand new G.I. Joe action figure. It had been on his list—so, boy, was he excited!
I was excited, too, because it confirmed my hopeful suspicion that my gift from Aunt Patti was the number-one thing on my wish list—a Barbie doll.
My gift wasn’t in the traditional box that a Barbie doll came in, but it was shaped like one, and I was convinced that Aunt Patti was just trying to fool me. I pulled off the narrow rectangular top, peeled back the tissue paper—but it wasn’t Barbie’s face that I saw. Instead, there were seven pairs of neatly-rolled, day-of-the-week underwear.
Underwear! I wanted a Barbie doll, not underwear!
My mother obviously noticed my disappointment because, without hesitation, she said, “Jennifer, what do you say to Aunt Patti?”
“Thank you,” I said.
Now, why did I say thank you for a gift that I hadn’t asked for and obviously didn’t want?
Because from as early as I could remember, my mother had taught me that I was always to receive whatever anyone gave me and say thank you for it. She had instilled in me how important it is to honor the giver by gratefully receiving the gift. Plus, it was my mother’s will that I say thank you—and I knew that I would be a lot happier if I obeyed her! (Can I get a witness out there?!)
Sometimes the things we face in life can feel like that underwear, can’t they? It is hard to be thankful for everything we experience. There are some things in our lives we simply do not feel thankful for.
But, did you know the Bible doesn’t tell us to be thankful for all things? Instead, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
God is telling us to have a grateful spirit no matter what we face. The opposite is to be bitter and resentful. So, we are thankful because it is God’s will. When we obey Him, we honor Him.
And, when God calls us to be thankful, it is not just for Him, it’s also for us. What honors Him, blesses us. There really are incredible benefits that come from gratefulness.
In her Forbes magazine article, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude,” Amy Morin shares how science has proven that being thankful improves your health and self-esteem, enhances your empathy, invites warm relationships, increases your mental strength, reduces toxic emotions, and helps you sleep better.
So, on this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, KC and I get stark raving grateful and talk about how we really can be thankful in all things—even the hard things. We share these four ways to help you develop a thankful heart.
4 Ways to Develop a Thankful Heart
- Keep a thankful list. In order to be thankful in all things, be thankful for one thing. Then be thankful for the next thing. Developing a habit of saying thanks for the typically unnoticed things in your life isn’t really that hard once you get started. And, when you develop the habit of thankfulness, you really do begin to have a heart of gratefulness. So, write them down. Don’t wait until bedtime! Note all throughout the day what you are thankful for.
- Share with others what you’re grateful for and why. We tend to talk about what’s wrong, what we don’t like, or how things could or should be better. Instead, we can share with others what we’re thankful for and why. Keeping gratefulness on your mind and your tongue will make appreciation fill your heart.
- Tell God, “Thank You.” This means express gratitude to God in all circumstances. Bitterness never kneels at God’s throne; it just shakes an angry fist. Gratitude, however, like the lone leper in Luke 17:11-19, throws itself before Christ. Gratitude is like a hammer and it can destroy resentment and bitterness in your life. When you smash the last brick of your wall of bitterness with the hammer of gratitude, you will hear the echo of the words Jesus spoke to the leper: “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). Have you thrown yourself at His feet, and thanked Him? Until you do, you’ll never experience the freedom that comes from being thankful in all things.
- Say thank you to others. Do you notice when you give something or do something for someone and they don’t say thank you? Do you notice if you are a thanker? To me, you can’t thank others too much. You never hear complaints that someone is too grateful. So, say thank you to others often.
My friend, gratitude to God in all things—even the hard things—honors Him. And whatever honors Him blesses you. So, go for it. Even through your tears, get stark raving grateful!
Remember, you can be thankful in all things through Christ who gives you strength.
Books and Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- Lessons I Learned in the Dark: Steps to Walking By Faith, Not by Sight
- Fingerprints of God: Recognizing God’s Touch on Your Life
- Go Ahead, Get Stark Raving Grateful!
- How to Accept a Gift You Never Wanted
- One Surefire Way to Become a Happier Woman
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What is one verse that helps remind you to have a grateful heart?