I’ve written and spoken about gratitude a lot because it’s important. God’s Word reminds us to give thanks 173 times. Giving thanks is the Lord’s admonition to His people, but even secular leaders recognize the benefits of expressing gratitude. Gratitude journals are all the rage.
But I had an experience recently that helped me see that my gratitude needs an upgrade. What’s exciting about this recognition is not that I have another reason to feel guilty. On the contrary, I have another reason to be encouraged. And so do you!
In this episode, I want to share some ideas for taking our own and our family’s gratitude to the next level. And it doesn’t require you to go on a foreign mission trip.
Before I share those ideas, I just want to say thank you. I have been so blessed to have you listen to this podcast, to chat with me at Great Homeschool Conventions, and to write and tell me that my work makes a difference in your life. It’s easier to keep running this race with your encouragement. I thank God for you and I pray for you.
Last month, my son woke us up to tell us that our basement was flooded. We thought he meant that some water had come in along one wall. That had happened before and my husband had a plan for solving the problem. So I was shocked when I walked downstairs, only to have my feet sink into sopping wet carpet. Water had come in from every wall, leaving only the center of the rooms dry. Our sump pump had failed in the midst of a heavy rain. We didn’t know that the pumps have to be replaced regularly. If you haven’t replaced your pump, let our experience be a warning to you.
Before I entered our sopping wet basement, my gratitude list would have sounded something like this:
Lord, I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my home. I’m thankful for my business.
I’ve matured enough in my faith that I wasn’t grumbling to God about the mess the water had made, but it was definitely a damper on my day. I became hyper focused on solving the problem. More rain was in the forecast later that day. I was ready to turn to Google for help when I felt the sense that I needed to stop and let my husband help me. Because my office is in our basement, I was feeling that I needed to be in charge. But I heeded the call to stand down. I just worked on cleanup.
Then my husband announced that our plumber was coming in a couple of hours to install a new sump pump. That was very good news! But the rest wasn’t. “I asked how he was,” my husband said, “and I could tell something was wrong. He has cancer and starts chemo in a few days.” I wasn’t shocked because of the large number of people we know who have been diagnosed with cancer or a recurrence in the last two years. But I was in awe of how the Lord used our flooded basement to give us the opportunity to minister to a man at just the right time.
Yes, I was grateful that we suffered so little loss with the water damage. I was grateful, too, that the flooding hadn’t occurred after installing new carpeting. Instead, I had been wanting the carpet replaced anyway. But what I was most grateful for was the love of our God. He loves our plumber so much that He used a heavy rain combined with our failure to replace a sump pump to bring him to our home, where we could pray for him and witness to our faith. What’s incredible to me is that He didn’t just work this together for our plumber’s good but for ours.
God is more than able to use every circumstance to make His plan a reality. I’m so grateful that He is trustworthy! His will will be done, even if we make a mistake. Even if someone we love makes a mistake. What a comfort!
I decided after that experience that I needed to upgrade my gratitude. I needed to go beyond making a list of all the standard-issue reasons to be grateful. I needed to start looking for how God was going to use the disappointments, the disasters, and even the dumb things we do for His glory and our good. Then I would thank Him for His love and care, even in advance of seeing them in reality.
Here is how I’m going to do that. I recommend that you and your children join me.
First, make a list of every worry, disappointment, and upset that is troubling you now.
For each entry, thank God that He is going to make you more like Jesus through that. He is going to use the circumstance as fertilizer to grow the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Who doesn’t want more of that fruit? I know I do. Thank God that He will give you wisdom. He promises to give us His wisdom when we ask in James 1:5.
Next, knowing that You will grow, thank God that He is going to use the circumstance for your good and the good of those you love.
Even though you don’t know how or when, even if it’s not in the way you prefer, you know that He will do this because He promises us this in Romans 8:28.
Finally, thank God that He will be glorified and His plans will be fulfilled.
Every situation will be used to demonstrate the power, the love, and yes, sometimes the patience of God. We agree with God that His ways are higher than our ways.
We can also level up our gratitude by putting it into action.
We can and should spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading–especially more than we spend time reading the news and others’ opinion. We can worship God in music, spending time in nature, creating, serving, and giving. Our love for Him overflows into worship.
We can remind others that God is at work. He hears our prayers but is waiting for the perfect time, when we and the people we love are most ready. We can preach to ourselves and others that this is not our home. Even if this life is not as we wish, we know that our eternal life offers more than we could ask or imagine. We can offer a listening ear and a hug to those who are waiting on God, offering the comfort we ourselves have received from Him.
And finally, we can share the Gospel. We can witness to our faith in the One who raised His Son to life and will raise us, too. We can share the real reason we suffer that has little to do with a person, politics, or particulars. Our sin led to a decaying world full of suffering–failed sump pumps and cancer. But God provided the solution to sin. I’m so thankful that solution isn’t dependent on you or me. Then we’d be sunk. Instead, we know the end of the story and it is victory. In that we place our hope and we rejoice with gratitude.
We are human, so when you walk onto sopping wet carpet, your initial response is unlikely to be gratitude. But if you stop and consider how you can become more like Christ, how God will work it together for good, and how God will be glorified, you’ll be likely to put your gratitude into action.
Next week my guest Carol Barnier and I will discuss how to help distractible, struggling readers. Have a happy homeschool week!