As I clean my house for guests and start preparing food for our Thanksgiving meal, I am reminded again how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of the season and forget what it really means to be grateful.
Gratefulness isn’t something that we can turn on and off depending on how we feel or how the world is shifting around us. Instead, I believe gratefulness is something God longs for us to interweave into the fabric of our lives and attitudes. Through learning to become a grateful person, gratefulness not only changes our perspective and leads us into contentment, but more importantly it builds a foundation upon which we can worship God in the midst of an ever-changing world.
Changing Our Perspective
When I escaped my trafficker all the things I left behind had painful memories attached to them. Despite this, all I knew and everything I once had was now gone and I was existing in a new place of vulnerability: a place where I felt fragile and didn’t know where or whom to trust to get the vital things I needed. In response to this vulnerability, I built a wall around myself - I wouldn’t let the people at the safe house get close to me, nor would I let people respond to my desperate needs.
Slowly, though, I got to know people at the safe house and saw the ways that their kindness to me had no strings attached, but was simply the authentic love of Jesus. I softened. Not only did I change in this process, but as I let people in and let them help me, God slowly opened my eyes to the power of gratefulness.
One thing I learned in the midst of that season is that when you have nothing, the smallest things you do have or are given become something for which you can become extremely grateful. And through this, gratefulness can then become a powerful key enabling you to take your eyes off what you do not have and focus on what you do have.
For example, when you take a young, toddler aged child on a walk they will typically point out to you all of the beetles, sticks, and flowers along the path. It’s like their little eyes are attuned to the minute and simple beauties that many adults struggle to see until they are shown. I believe that choosing to be grateful for what we have is almost like entering the simplicity of a child’s play and choosing to see things from their perspective.
With discontentment, all we see are the things we do not have, but with gratefulness, we begin to see and acknowledge the things we have as gifts we do not deserve. This new perspective is powerful, because it not only builds contentment into our lives, but it enables us to walk around seeing all of the gifts that we do have, instead of being consumed by the things we do not have.
Leading Us to Worship
In addition to changing our perspective, gratefulness also has the power to lead us to worship God in a deeper way.
In Psalm 92:1-2, the Psalmist says that “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” The Hebrew word ידה means “heartfelt gratitude to God, expressed in response to His love and mercy.”* Repeatedly, this Hebrew word is used throughout the Old Testament to not only declare thankfulness to God for His goodness (Ps 100:4-5, Ez 3:10-11; Isa 63:7), but to also thank God for deliverance from adversity and slavery (Ps 35:9-10, Ex 15:1-18, Ps 105:1-45), to thank God for His provision (Ps 147:7-9), and to thank God for answer prayer (1 Sam 2:1-10, Ps 138:1-5). Through this, I believe that worship and praise are not only a way for us to show love, reverence, and adoration to God, but I believe it is a natural response of gratitude to Him for the undeserved grace, redemption, and love He has given.
Throughout my life and the things that I have experienced, when things are going well and there is enough money in the bank to cover the bills (or there is food in the fridge and the emotional turmoil has lessened a bit), it is easy to say God is good and to worship him. But when things are simply hard and you feel like you are merely surviving day to day, it is much harder to worship God and declare His goodness. In the midst of this though, I am learning that God doesn’t call us to worship Him and give thanks to Him only when life is easy, but God calls us to worship Him during all seasons of life including the hard times that never seem to go right or as we wish (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Getting on my knees and choosing to express my gratefulness to God for who He is and what He has not only done, but has given (even if we still have great need) is beautiful to Him. To reverently adore Christ in the midst of confusion, fear of the future, great need, and the deep pain of healing from trauma is a fragrant offering of love back to Him.
In the midst of this busy season would you join me in reflecting on all that you have. Gratefulness is powerful. Would you consider letting it lead you into worship or letting it change your perspective?
*Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009. Print.
Jessa Dillow Crisp is the new Blog Manager and new addition to the speaker's team at RBI. In addition to writing and speaking, Jessa is working on her M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She lives in Denver, CO with her husband, John, and loves climbing mountains for fun.