One day a while back, Nate and I were driving to church. All that afternoon I had been regaling him with all the things that were wrong, all the things I hated, and all the things that needed fixed. Before we got very far from the house Nate stopped me and asked, “Faith, are you happy?”
“I mean, relatively, so. Why?” I said, quickly realizing where this was going.
“Because I can fix a lot of these things for you, but that won’t matter if you don’t have a grateful heart.”
Boom. Mic drop.
I was instantly convicted of my complaining and repented right there.
You see, I can be very critical and whiny naturally. Honestly, I think we all can. It’s really the way of the world and the culture that we live in. Think about it, you can almost instantly bond with a complete stranger by complaining about common issues like slow wi-fi, traffic, pot holes in the road, politicians, gas prices, inclement weather, obnoxious kids.
Gratitude goes against our fallen human nature, and extravagant gratitude and thanksgiving will REALLY rub your flesh the wrong way.
For the sake of clarity, let me say that I believe that the most effective kind of Biblical thanksgiving is that which is uttered OUT LOUD. Being thankful in your heart is swell, but if we want all of the benefits of thanksgiving in our lives, we need to say it out loud.
I write here about thanksgiving and praise together because I have found that when I am extravagantly thankful, I cannot help but praise God.
Zack Neese, author of How to Worship a King, defines praise as “an expression of approval or admiration… Praise is more specifically an expression of respect or gratitude as an act of worship.”
1. Thanksgiving is pleasing to God. Complaining is not
The children of Israel who roamed the desert for 4 years were the whiniest bunch of people. God did a TON of jaw dropping miracles to get them out of slavery, rained down food from heaven, provided a fire to guide them and a cloud to shade them, yet they complained that “it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Exodus 14:12 And it did not end well for the whiners..
Happiness is an emotion and emotions can come and go. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and when we choose to stay in sync with Him we get to enjoy that fruit. At some point we just have to decide that we are going to be joyful.
Hear me on this: Nothing will be 100% perfect this side of heaven, yet even in a hard season we can choose to be joyful.
Early on when I worked for the Town Hall, there was a little old man who would come into visit every time he came to town. He lived in the next town over and would come to tend to the graves of his wife and daughter, both of whom he had lost tragically to cancer. And you want to know what? He was one of the most genuinely joyful people I have ever met. When I would ask how his day was going, he would tell me, “Every day’s a good day. God never made a bad day. People make bad days, but I just decide to be happy.” And he was. Here was a man who had every excuse to be down, but he CHOSE to be joyful.
2. Thanksgiving and praise will get you into the courtyard of God’s temple and invite God’s presence into your situation.
“You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise. Come right into his presence with thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to him and affectionately bless his beautiful name.” Psalm 100:4 TPT
In the old covenant, Israelites did NOT approach God’s temple with complaints, they approached with praise, thanksgiving, and a grateful heart. I don’t know about you, but I NEED and WANT to go before God daily, so I better make thanksgiving and praise part of my daily life.
Psalm 22:3 KJV But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
The CSB words it this way “But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
Again, I don’t know about you but I want God enthroned in every area of my life over all circumstances, so I better build a place for Him to come sit with my praises.
3. Thanksgiving elevates your perspective
When we choose to express thanksgiving and praise, we are saying whether by faith or not, that we trust God to come through on His promises. We are saying that we see the finished work of the cross as enough. We are agreeing with heaven’s perspective. Thanksgiving may not immediately change the situation, but it will elevate your perspective of the situation.
Paul instructed us from his prison cell to “Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow for you are united with the Anointed One!”Phil 4:4 TPT
Another translation says “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice”. One of my favorite preachers elaborated on this scripture saying, “so if I’m not rejoicing, then I am in disobedience.” Boom.
The fact that we are united with Christ is enough to warrant continual, joyous celebration.
“I get ya, Faith, but HOW do I develop a grateful heart?”
Lemme share my very best tried and true tips for developing a grateful heart:
Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and thank God out loudfor the blessings that you have.!
Write 5 things per day in your journal that you are thankful for.
Don’t participate in complaining sessions. If you can, try to turn the conversation towards thankfulness. If you can’t, bow out.
Stop comparing your life and your calling to other peoples.
Write “thank you” notes or appreciation letters to people randomly.
Thank God out loud for “little things” throughout your day.
It may take a LOT of work at first to break the habit of complaining, but trust me it’s worth it. I would love to say that it’s a habit that says broke forever, but the truth is, we might just have to work at being thankful and intentionally praising God our whole lives. But He is worth it. Obedience is always worth it.