“You can either let it make you bitter or better.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard countless times over the course of my life. I’ve sat in some disappointment this summer, mourned some could-have-beens and cried more tears than I knew I could. As August winds down, I feel like a different person than I was in April and May. I wouldn’t say a better person, and I can’t put my finger on what exactly is different, but as I step into yet another transition, I’m different.
I had a conversation in passing at work in June with a co-worker that rocked me. She was sharing with me about the end of her marriage, and it struck me. I cried on the way home, humbled. It was that night that I decided that instead of being upset and cynical, I needed to choose to be thankful. Thankful for the no’s God had told me both professionally and personally. Thankful for the unsettling season I was currently in, and thankful for the ways I was confident the Lord would provide in such an unsettling season. Slowly I began to notice changes in myself.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14). As I’ve started to learn, thankfulness prevents bitterness, discontentment and jealousy from taking root in my heart. Thankfulness reminds me who’s in charge… not me, but God – the same God who knows the ins and outs of my heart is working all things for my good. Even when my circumstances lead me to believe otherwise, I always have something to be thankful for.
Thankfulness very quickly turns into praise. No matter what I’m going through, I can praise God for His character and His faithfulness; they never change. There have been numerous mornings I’ve sat down this summer to journal and felt so in awe of God that I just thanked Him for everything. Even the yuck. I’ve started to see that when I thank God for the yuck, the yuck becomes less yucky.
I don’t think thankfulness is a lesson to learn, but instead a practice, not dissimilar from a spiritual discipline. Thankfulness and surrender are intertwined; in order to be fully surrendered to God, I need to acknowledge His goodness and His almighty power, which is impossible to do without being thankful. A thankful heart surrenders and obeys quicker than a bitter one. So if I want to obey God and be surrendered to God, then I must practice thankfulness, in all circumstances. I serve a great and mighty God, a God who refused to let my sin be the end of the story, so I will seek to practice thankfulness, even when it’s difficult.
How do you practice thankfulness?