This time of year we naturally think of being more grateful for our blessings. This season provides the opportunity to hit the “restart” button and reminds of to be thankful for the people and things in our lives that we appreciate. Lately, I have been more challenged to step up my game in being grateful and I have noticed that my joy level has increased dramatically! I want to share a few of the things that I have been learning so that you walk in a deeper level of gratefulness and joy as well!
1. Allow gratefulness to go deeper. Often we are good at listing off what or who we are thankful for but do we stop and meditate on it for a minute? For example: last night I was picking Emily up from youth group. It was dark, cool and pretty windy. I actually had to wear a sweater in Redding! As I was pulling into the parking lot to pick her up, I began to thank God that she has an amazing youth group to attend that she loves. Then I went on to think about the all the people that stand out there week after week and how (last night) they must have been chilly as they were directing traffic. I was truly grateful for each and every one of their dedication to the youth and their willingness to be cold just to make sure my daughter (and many others) made it safely where they needed to go. It was natural for me to think like this last night because I have been purposely training my brain to expand not only what I am thankful for but why I am. In order to do this, we need to spend more time to allow our capacity for gratefulness to grow in our thinking.
2. Being grateful places us in God’s will. So many times we ask , “what is God’s will for my life?” or “what should I be doing with my life?” Well, here is the answer: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18. Being grateful is simply the fruit of being humble. When we are humble, we are submitted to God and allowing Him to take His rightful place in our lives. Gratefulness flows from this heart posture that recognizes the worth of God. As we see God more clearly, we see ourselves, others, and everything around us with the proper perspective. From this place, it is easy to find out what God wants for us!
3. Being grateful increases our joy! Let’s be honest-we are pretty good at focusing on ourselves, aren’t we? While it is not wrong to think about ourselves and our needs, our greatest joy comes when we are thinking about others-who they are, the qualities that we love about them, and how we can bless them.
I remember being challenged by one of my favorite preachers years ago (Joyce Meyer) to wake up and purposely think about who we can be a blessing to that day, then to follow through with actions. She said that it revolutionized her life and that it would ours, too. She was so right!
Thankfulness is a God-given gift and way of life that, if built into our daily habits, will bring so much peace and joy. Jesus explains it perfectly in John 15:9-13 when He says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments and abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Loving people with our actions begins with loving them in our thoughts. The more we meditate on the good about them and how we can love them, the more we will! We have the mind of Christ and our thoughts have power. Being grateful will generate a force that will work like a magnet, drawing the joy and pleasure of God into our lives. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 15! He wants us to be overflowing with joy and gives us the prescription right here.
Let’s take advantage of the reminders all around us to be thankful during this season. Let’s make this a way of life and allow the Spirit of God to challenge us to go deeper in our gratitude. Whether you are just beginning the journey of being more thankful or are well on your way, we can all grow in this area. Our greatest joy will be when we allow what is going on in our hearts to come out of our mouths and use our God-given authority to speak blessing and life over those around us. This is what love looks like!