Hard Situations Through Which God Taught Us Thankfulness

As part of our Thankful Thursday series, today’s post will be a panel post where we share our  personal answers to the following question:

 

What circumstance has God allowed into your life that you have had a hard time being thankful for?  

Chrystal:
This question is a hard one to answer for me. Mainly because God hasn’t asked me to walk through any (what I would consider) major life crisis yet. No chronic illness, no miscarriage, no job loss, no wayward child, etc….yet. So when I look at my life and see the areas where I struggle with thankfulness it all seems rather petty to me. And yet, I think whether we are currently walking through a valley or pasture, God’s call to each of us remains the same. Be thankful.

 

For me, I find it the hardest to give thanks when my own personal comfort is being jeopardized. So, this plays itself out in my marriage: I want a husband who will pursue and serve me even when he’s tired. It plays itself out with my kids: I want them to behave well and never inconvenience me, especially in public. It plays itself out in my home: I want a home that always stays clean and never feels dirty or cluttered, etc.

 

In the moment these things seem like good and honest desires to me. Husbands should pursue their wives, right? Children should obey their parents, right? Our homes should be up kept, right? And yet, often I find myself prioritizing these things above God. I get upset when these “rights” of mine aren’t working out. And suddenly my ugly heart is exposed with what I truly idolize: myself.

 

It is at these moments that I need to remind myself that God is the source of my satisfaction. Ultimately, I should never be looking to myself, my family or my home as my reasons for a grateful heart. (Not that I can’t be thankful for those things, but at a base level those are not good wells to be drawing my joy from.) Ultimately, my family and home can be taken away, but God has promised me all the satisfaction and joy I need in Him.

 

Psalm 16: 8-11 – “I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasure for evermore.”

 

My hope is in Christ, not in man/circumstances. Christ is my Redeemer. And when God is the source of my happiness I will always have a reason to rejoice.

 

Angie: 
 Almost four years ago, God allowed me to miscarry twins, our first pregnancy. At first, I was simply dealing with all the emotions of the grief. However, after a while, it did become an issue of “Can I thank God for this?” Needless to say, it was an intense struggle to honestly thank God for our miscarriage. Deep down in my heart, I knew that I was supposed to be thankful for it. But my flesh fought against yielding so easily to the correct answer. To come to the point of being able to thank Him for our miscarriage, I believe there was one perspective that was primarily instrumental: I had to establish a deep-rooted conviction of God’s sovereignty and goodness in everything, even in our miscarriage.

 

God used His Word and several books (primarily Knowing God, by Jerry Bridges and Inheritance of Tears, by Jessalyn Hutto) to help my heart grow in my conviction of His sovereignty and goodness in all things. With time, this conviction has become the foundation for understanding and giving thanks for our miscarriage. I don’t understand the full reason for why He allowed it. I don’t understand all of the things that He has accomplished and continues to accomplish through our miscarriage. But I do understand that God’s Word teaches us that He is good and sovereign in all His ways, and as such, I can trust Him, even when there were times when it felt like I was being suffocated of the very air I breathed because of the pain of the loss.

 

It is because of His faithfulness to show His goodness and sovereignty that I can now thank Him in this pain as He works to accomplish His good work in me. Because of our miscarriage, God has blessed me with some of the sweetest times of fellowship with Him as He revealed Himself through the pages of His Word. However, even now, almost four years since our miscarriage, there are still times when I wonder if the pain will ever go away. It is during these moments then, that I again have to remind myself of the bedrock truth that God continues to be good and sovereign, and continues to use even the pain for His good will.

 

Rachel:
When I was just a tiny little girl I remember wanting to grow up and be a mommy to a lot of children. As I got older I envisioned being a strong woman who delivered all my children naturally without the aid of any medication or pain-reliever.As our first baby’s due date drew closer and Braxton hicks come in strong waves I prepared myself mentally for delivery. On the day that marked 40 weeks everything changed. Our doctor told me that I had a problem with my cervix which was causing it to not dilate. The longer the pregnancy continued the higher the risk of an emergency cesarean became. There were two options: one, schedule induction or wait it out and risk an emergency c-section. He suggested we go home and make our decision, if we chose to wait the baby would need to be monitored every couple days.

Before our next appointment arrived I began to labor hard and a few hours later my water broke with contractions coming every two minutes. We arrived at the hospital anticipating that our baby would arrive very soon only to find that I was not dilated at all. I labored for 29 hours and still had not reached 5 centimeters. At this point I was given an epidural and a high dose of pitocin. Six hours later our little girl made her appearance! A perfect healthy little blonde baby was placed in our arms. I was so happy and so thankful for our girl and that we had been spared a c-section.

Fast forward 21 months and we were preparing for the birth of our second little one. I was positive that things would be different this time, so sure that I could “do it” without help or medication this time! But as that 40 week mark come then went and I showed no signs of dilating, though I was experiencing strong labor pains, I grew more and more upset and bawled my eyes out in the OB office at 40 weeks 6 days. The midwife told me to go home for some lunch then come back for a stress test and ultrasound.

Baby passed the stress test with flying color but as I lay there while the nurse moved the ultrasound doppler around on my stomach I could tell from her face something was not quite right. She explained that the amniotic fluid was almost totally gone which could cause complications and even a still birth if this baby did not come very soon. She fetched a doctor who looked me in the eyes and told us that we were not leaving this room. She said she never liked to induce unless it was absolutely necessary and this was one of those times. I lay there thinking “This is NOT how I wanted things to go, this is not how I want to tell my story. But I can do it this time without an epidural, I’m sure I can be strong enough!”

As my body reacted to the medication it was riddled with the most excruciating pain beyond what I ever imagined. I truly though I was going to die. Hours passed. By the time I looked at my husband and gave into an epidural I could not stand, sit or lay down and my body would not stop shaking.  As the nerve block did its job I slept and woke up ready to deliver. 13 hours of labor and another beautiful, perfectly healthy little girl was placed in our arms! Thank you God! My dreams of “normal” labors and deliveries have crumbed before me twice but each time I am strongly reminded how much I have to be thankful for-  thankful that my body can carry our babies, thankful for doctors and modern technology which I’m sure God used to save my life and our babies lives, thankful to have been spared c-sections, thankful that each time God has given Jeremiah and I strong, healthy little girls! It has been hard but I can only praise God!

 

It is amazing and encouraging to see how God uses many different circumstances and situations to teach us and mold us into the image of His Son! He is good and faithful!

Practical Ways to Cultivate Gratefulness

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,
and thy faithfulness every night.
Upon an instrument of ten strings,
and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work:
I will triumph in the works of thy hands.”
Psalm 92:1-4

To conclude our series on cultivating thankfulness both personally, and as a family, we’ve gathered some practical ideas on ways to be intentional about expressing gratitude. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, we would love to hear your ideas, feel free to share them with us in the comment section!

1. Pray 
Ask God to give you a thankful heart.

2. Fill Your mind with Scripture 
Scripture declares itself to be key in being a part in fighting sin, for Psalm 119:11 tell us “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” One way to fill your mind with Scripture is to simply read it: perhaps start in the Psalms and look for things for which to be thankful. Or memorize verses that specifically address the attitudes of heart, such as Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

3. Music
Hebrews 13:15 gives the encouragement to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Music is one specific way to turn your heart towards Him. Fill your heart and home with songs that remind you of God’s goodness and His blessings, such as Count Your Many Blessings  and My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness. 

4. Accountability 
Commit to sharing with your spouse or a friend one thing that you are thankful for each day. Ask them to check in with you when you start to slack off. Ask them to pray for you in this specific area and to lovingly point out when they start to see an ungrateful heart popping up again in your conversations/actions.

5. Gratitude Sheet on the Fridge
As a way to involve the whole family, put a “gratitude page” on your fridge. With it being in a public place, the entire family can jot down things they are thankful for as they think of it. This is a fun, easy way to cultivate thankfulness as a family!

6. Confess ungratefulness as sin/Ask for forgiveness
Many of the ideas here are ideas on how to correct a lack of thankfulness. However, it is important to remember that ungratefulness is something that should be confessed to the Lord and repented of.

7. Keep a Gratitude Journal or Gratitude Jar
This could be either personal or for the entire family. Have a jar with some slips of paper next to it or an open notebook in the entry-way of your house with a sign next to it that says “Today I am thankful for…”

8. Think on Christ 
 If thoughts of ungratefulness are invading your heart and mind, renew your mind by thinking on Christ. This can start with simply expressing gratefulness to Him for the salvation He has so richly provided.

9. List 5 things from yesterday
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like much happened the previous day, but sometimes the simple exercise of stopping to think about it for just a few minutes reveals many little blessings that are often overlooked.

10. Verbalize thankfulness during everyday situations
For example, Dad may have been sick but is now getting better. Or maybe a toy was lost but now has been found. Use such situations to include children in expressing gratitude to the Lord by simply declaring “God has answered our prayer for Dad to get better! Thank you Jesus!” or “Look! We found that toy you were looking for! Thank you Jesus for helping us find the toy!”

11. Use sticky notes around the house with verses/quotes about thankfulness. 

12. Thankful Tree 
Cut out a brown paper tree. Cut out colorful leaves and write down things you are thankful for on the leaves before taping them onto the tree.

13 Read a book on thankfulness 
Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is good book on gratefulness!

We hope this Thanksgiving series has been as encouraging to you as it has been to us as we’ve worked on writing it!

Thankful Thursday

“I thought we could all go around the room and share something we’d like to thank or praise God for” said Pastor Josh.

I found myself slightly panicking as I tried to quickly think of something I could say.

Other people in our connection group were starting to share but not
much was coming to my mind. “Quick! Think of something!” I tried to tell myself.

“My kids. I can say I’m thankful for my kids!” I felt a slight moment of relief before the next thought of “No, too generic, too generic” flooded my brain.

My husband, Mike, shared that he was thankful our newborn was starting to get into a schedule and sleeping better at night. Someone else commented about the good timing of that with Mike just now going back to school.

I quickly managed to squeak out that I was thankful he had been home over the summer to help with the transition of adding our third. I felt slightly embarrassed that I couldn’t think of anything else to say and wondered if other people thought it was odd that I wasn’t sharing either.

What was wrong here? Well, while I’d like to blame it on a bad case of “mommy brain” I have to admit that I think the problem goes deeper than that.

The problem is that I haven’t been doing much to cultivate a thankful heart lately. And that is sin. God clearly states many times throughout His Word that we are to be thankful and I just haven’t been doing it. I’ve been rather content to overlook His many blessings; either claiming them as a product of my own labor or complaining about the things I think I deserve to have, but don’t.

Why should we be thankful?

1. For the glory of God.

Psalm 31:11 – 12 – “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou has put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.”

Psalm 50:14- 15- “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay vows unto the Most High: and call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify Me.”

2. To display God to others.

Psalm 35:18- “I will give thanks in the great congregation: I will praise Thee among much people.”

Psalm 69:30 – “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

I love this! One of the ways we can make God bigger to those around us is through much thanksgiving! I’m not sure I had really made that connection before. I know that I’m supposed to be thankful but usually I connect it more with the fact that it makes me a less miserable person to be around. And yet right here in Psalm 69 we see that our thanksgiving is a way of  magnifying God.

Our thankful hearts can be a means of pointing not only ourselves but other
people back to God as well.

Ok, so I get it. We are supposed to be thankful. Thankful for what though?

Psalm 68:19 says “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”

Really? Daily loadeth us with benefits? Sometimes I find that hard to believe. I can think of some obvious things like food, my family and my home but beyond that sometimes I honestly have a hard time coming up with much more.

My children have been good for me in this area. Over the month of November we’ve been doing a “thankful tree.” We started with an empty tree trunk and each day we’ve been writing things we’re thankful for onto leaves and taping them onto the tree. And you know what? My kids haven’t been giving me complicated lists of things they are thankful for. They’ve been saying things like “socks, pumpkins, leaves, milk, cereal, cheese, books, forks, cups, bibs,
jammies, etc.” And sometimes they are even repeating themselves and saying the same things they said the day before.

In some ways I think they have a better grasp than me of how God daily “loads us with benefits.” Little things like warm/soapy water to wash dishes in, a cup of coffee, a special song, a chat with a friend, a child’s smile, an encouraging text, a couch to sit on or a pillow for my head, etc., etc., etc., are all things I could be giving God thanks for!

Wow. I’ve been missing out on a lot of opportunities to give thanks.

Within scripture we find even more gifts.

1. Breath.

“He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” –(Acts 17:25)

There are times where I’ve watched my children sleep and with every rise of their stomach I’ve thought “that’s another breath that God just gave to them.” Something as simple as breath is a gift from God.

2. Creation.

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of
heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” -(Acts 17:24)

As we drive in the car, go for walks or play in the back yard we can be taking the time to notice the creation all around us and be pointing our children to the Creator. “What a beautiful sunset God painted just for us!” or “Lets see how many different shades of green we can find that God has created in our back yard.”

3. Love.

“Love is of God… for God is love.” – (1 John 4:7-8)

Our ability to love is linked directly to God. When is the last time we thanked God for those we love and for those who love us back?

4. Salvation.

“My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto Thee; and my soul, which Thou
has redeemed.” – (Psalm 71:23)

How often are we taking the time to verbally share with our children, friends and families about the story of our redemption?

5. Spiritual blessings.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” – (Ephesians 1:3)

Sometimes I personally find it easier to thank God for the material things around me while overlooking the many spiritual blessings He blesses me with. What would our lives look like without His grace? Without His Spirit? Without direct access to our God? Without eternal security?

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” – Psalm 68:19.

Daily.

Loadeth.

Us.

With benefits.

Let’s recognize these daily things as coming from His hand and look for ways to give thanks!

 

~ Chrystal

Mommy Hold Me

 

You’re just trying to get a few things done around the house and of course this is the moment that your child has decided to make you his favorite person.

He’s following you around, wanting to be with you, asking for a snack and clinging to you like a third appendage. You try to give him something new to play with; something that you’ve been keeping hidden for such a time as this. You get him happily settled before returning to the kitchen.

Just as you roll up your sleeves you hear a little voice below you and feel a tug on your leg. “Mommy, hold me.”

You didn’t even know he could move that fast, but there he is, looking up at you with those adoring eyes. He’s managed to lose interest in a $15 birthday present in exchange for time with his favorite person. How are you ever going to get anything done?

We’ve all be there.

Then one day it hit me. Why was I spending so much time and energy trying to keep him occupied when he could be “helping” me with some of my projects and having fun at the same time.

Needing to do dishes? Not a problem. I filled my sink with soapy water, scraped the dry bubbles off the top, gave them to my son in a bowl with a spoon and bam…instant entertainment. He spent tons of time sitting on my counter, stirring bubbles around and “making applesauce.” It was great sensory play for him and I was getting my dishes done! Win, win.

Needing to make a salad? No big deal. I found that at 18 months my son could tear lettuce leaves up and throw them into a bowl. He also liked putting the croutons on at the end (and of course he sampled a few just to make sure they were good.) He could do the same thing with cabbage when I made stir-fry, etc.

Chopping vegetables? Let him collect them and put them in the pot for me. Picking up individual pieces kept him occupied for a looong time.

Needing to do laundry? My son loved collecting dirty things and throwing them into the baskets. And when it came time to switch the laundry over I’d put the wet laundry on the open dryer door and he’d have fun pushing it into the machine all by himself.

Needing to write a thank-you card or a letter of encouragement to someone? I gave my son a coloring book, markers and crayons and while he happily colored I flopped onto my belly next to him and wrote my card using the same markers. In his mind we were doing one of his favorite things together. In my
mind, I was seeing a big fat check mark on my to do list. (Even bigger bonus points if I could include his colored picture into that note of encouragement for someone.)

Needing to get my floor cleaned? Why not put a wet cloth on that Swiffer he was already pushing around and let him clean while he played? I could even take out the middle piece of the handle and make it perfect for his size.

See what I mean? A whole new world opened up for me when I realized that my son could take part in my own every day tasks. And the best part was that it also enabled us to spend time together; learning, creating and laughing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not super mom. Some days I have no creative ideas about how to involve him in what I’m doing and that’s when the high chair, a snack and “Curious George” on a screen become my best friends. And sometimes…that’s ok too.

~ Chrystal

Thankful Thursday

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14) (ESV)

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23) (ESV)

The words jumped off the page at me and I had to read them again:

“Sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  “Glorifies me.”

As believers on this side of the cross, we tend to confine sacrifices to the Old Testament law system, from which today’s believer has now been freed. Yet the sacrifices of thanksgiving are not the bloody sacrifices carried out in the temple worship during the time of the Bible.

No, we no longer offer animal sacrifices as a means of finding favor before the Lord, for Christ took care of the sacrifice for sin once and for all on the cross: We are fully accepted in the Beloved before the Father.

While these verses were written during the Old Testament time-period, I believe they provide valuable instruction about giving tanks that that can be applied to the believer.

Observation #1:  Such sacrifices are a way to worship and glorify God.

The Psalms clearly state that a thankful heart is a sacrifice that renders glory to God.

Why is the attitude of giving thanks called a “sacrifice”?

The New Testament discusses the believer’s relationship to sacrifices with specific language, for Romans 12:1 tells the believer to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)

While Christ has done away with the need for offering the sacrifices of bulls and goats, we are now called to offer up the sacrifice of our own bodies, our own living bodies.

Did you catch that? The acceptable worship that we are now called to offer to the Lord takes place with our bodies–our physical bodies.

Observation #2: Spiritual sacrifices involve our physical bodies

How then, do we offer our bodies as a sacrifice? If this is not a literal, physical, blood-shedding sacrifice, we must be called instead to offer some form of a spiritual sacrifice.

It is here that we often get stuck: the concept of spiritually yielding our physical  bodies as a living sacrifice feels ambiguous and the implications of such are difficult to understand on a day-to-day basis. How does “offering up the spiritual sacrifice of my living body” impact my morning that is filled with soiled laundry, a sink filled with dirty dishes, and a fussing toddler’s oatmeal-smeared face?

I believe Hebrews 13:15-16 gives us a glimpse into how offering up our bodies–the members of our physical bodies—as a living sacrifice plays out in a very practical way: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (ESV)

All these things are very practical, concrete things that we do with the physical members of our bodies: the acknowledging His name with ourlips, the doing good (with our hands, feet, and mouth), and the sharing of our goods. These verses help us connect the spiritual with the physical and show us how we can do spiritual sacrifices with our physical bodies.

Such a connection makes the concept of offering up spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to Him somewhat easier to grasp.

So, if our spiritual sacrifices consist of using our physical bodies, then these spiritual sacrifices are carried out with the very members of our bodies: our hands, feet, mouth, mind, and heart.

This gets very practical, does it not? We use these members of our body every minute of every day. Every day, we have opportunities to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are pleasing to God, and in turn offer up a living sacrifice pleasing to Him.

Or at those same moments, we can yield our physical members as instruments of unrighteousness and choose to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are not pleasing to God.

Observation #3: We offer up sacrifices every day

And it is here that we learn what a  sacrifice of thanksgiving looks like:

How often throughout the day are we not tempted to be irritated about  having to pick up the fork our toddler threw off the table for the tenth time or annoyed with that person we talked to yesterday who always seems to  “have it all together”?

How often are we not tempted to have a pity party for ourselves because we haven’t had any “me” time or to text to a friend to complain about something?

How often do we tend to fail to see that choosing to be content and thankful in even the most mundane ways is in fact the very significant form of offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord?

Suddenly, the insignificant becomes very significant.

To offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving now becomes very clear: yield up those moments of temptation and turn them into moments of sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the particular situation that is planting seeds of ingratitude in your heart, turn it into an opportunity to offer the specific sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing to the Lord.

And in turn, we glorify Him.

~ Angie