Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Thankful Heart: 7 Unexpected Benefits

I found myself in one of those pits.  You know, the kind where we might sometimes start to feel comfortable. I justified my feelings, as if I deserved to be angry, and hurt, and bitter. Perhaps you feel that way sometimes, too.

There are times when I rest a little too comfy in my alter-ego as “Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson” - like putting on my favorite PJ’s and slippers on a brisk fall evening - and I don’t want to change. As I settled in to this particular pit, I recognized a problem. I was on the brink of a fast downward spiral.  My negative thoughts started slipping…

from annoyance 

          to anger 

                    to bearing a grudge 

                              to recognizing hints of hatred 

                                        to a desire to withdraw completely 

I didn’t like feeling that way.  I knew it wasn’t honoring to God.  I understood the need to change, and while I didn’t think I should have to change, I recognized I was on a path to destruction. I stepped into action on an impulse. Almost without thinking, I pulled a brand new spiral-bound journal off of my bookshelf and started writing. I listed all the reasons I was thankful to the Lord. It became an exercise I practiced daily.

A Thankful Heart: 7 Unexpected Benefits

Years ago, when I was involved in prayer with a ministry now called “Moms in Prayer,” (www.momsinprayer.org) several ladies gathered and prayed through a time of gratitude.  Giving thanks was not a new idea in my life.  It wasn’t reserved for the month of November and our national Thanksgiving holiday. It was a discipline, albeit one I’d recently shelved. I’d neglected it for far too long.

The act of turning - from a crabby attitude to one of thanksgiving, from the act of grumbling to the practice of giving thanks - brought some immediate results.  Other benefits took a little longer to manifest:

1)  I saw a drastic change in my attitude.
Almost as soon as my pen touched the paper, I felt a shift in my attitude. Instead of dwelling on what was bothering me, I began to see the good in my life. The abundance of good hit me like a steamroller.

2)  The weight of my burdens lifted.
I began to realize that with the Lord’s help, I could walk through my circumstance.  Rather than thinking, “I just can’t do this anymore,” I began to believe that Christ would empower me to overcome. And He did, just as He always does.

3)  My productivity increased.
The sense that I was completely overwhelmed began to dissipate.  I recalled times in my past when God proved Himself faithful and I remembered that He walks alongside me in all my trials.  Instead of falling in exhaustion, I found energy to get up and participate, knowing I never walked alone.

4)  My heart wanted to sing praise.
Seeing the Lord’s glory in my personal life - written as a long list on paper - spurred me to praise.  God never leaves His throne and never removes His crown of victory.  When times are difficult, He still reigns supreme and pours out His blessing. I found myself singing hymns and praise songs even when my radio wasn’t on.

5)  Thankfulness multiplied. 
The more I gave thanks, the more my eyes were opened to see additional reasons to be thankful.  Some of what I listed seemed tiny and inconsequential, but seeing on paper that the Lord provides for the smallest details as much as the biggest trials was encouraging.  Gratitude flowed like a mountain waterfall in spring.

6)  My attitude became contagious.  
Gratitude began to enter my vocabulary and I noticed that others around me began using similar vernacular.  Family members, colleagues, volunteers, and others began sharing ways they were thankful, too.
7)  Joy erupted.
“Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson” was put to bed.  There was no room for her with a heart so full of gratitude.  My frown turned to a smile - small at first, but growing over time. Without focusing on my difficult circumstance, it was easy to find my joy and savor the fruit of the Spirit.

I’ve learned that a heart of gratitude is very effective in helping me snap my out of a bad mood, or to serve as a ladder on which I can climb out of a pit. Whether I’ve struggled with my negativity for 12 years or 10 minutes, turning from grumbling to thanksgiving helps clear the mental fog nearly every time.  

in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thes 5:18 (NASB)

Your turn:

November is upon us and this is the month when we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving.  How can you practice a heart of gratitude in your day-to-day living?

What are some ways that you can communicate gratitude and help spur others to give thanks as well?

Will you share your stories with me?

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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