Some friends and I are doing a study on the book "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I was kind of skeptical going into this book- viewing gratitude as one of those "icing on the cake" kind of spiritual attributes, but certainly not as "important" as service, patience, unconditional love, etc. I actually wondered how someone was going to write a 150 page book on the concept of being thankful. Ironically, the author addresses this very mentality in the first few pages.
But what I am learning is that gratitude is so much more than a brief "thank you" or a nod towards God when things are going well. It's an all day, every day intense effort to remember and acknowledge all God is, all He has done, and all He has blessed me with. It's being able to say "thank you" for all things in life, not just the ones I appreciate at the moment.
But it's even more with than that. I am learning how God's grace cultivates gratitude. If we have a proper perspective of who God is and who we are in relation to Him, we can't help but be humbly grateful, and that gratitude pervades every aspect of our lives. We become all of those "more important" attributes: we are more patient and forbearing because we recognize how much patience the Lord shows to us; we are more easily forgiving, because we are grateful for the forgiveness that has been shown to us; we serve and give because we look to, in some small measure, actually express that thanks.
And on the other side, I am learning how many sins and struggles are borne from a heart of ingratitude. It leads to resentment, bitterness, anger, pride, selfishness, rebellion, jealousy, and so many more. It is listed among the other, seemingly more "treacherous" sins listed in 2 Timothy, and given as the root of the sins listed in Romans 1.
Early in my marriage, when circumstances weren't going so well, I developed a little phrase in my own heart, "When you sow seeds of discontentment, you will only reap the fruits of bitterness." Certainly not wanting to become a bitter person, I would repeat this little mantra over and over to myself: while I cleaned my less-than-desirable residence, while I trudged through and shoveled the snow that I hated so much, while my husband worked long hours at a job that wasn't paying enough to make ends meet, while we struggled to figure out if we had made a mistake by getting married, while our only car became less and less reliable, while I went to the grocery store with $20 in my pocket to see us through for the whole week. With the Lord's grace, it worked. We emerged on the other side, our marriage not only intact, but stronger. He provided exactly what we needed, both physically and spiritually, at every turn. The "grace" part of it all is that, while I certainly had moments of resentment and discontentment while enduring this season of life, I truly did have no lingering feelings of bitterness about the struggles. But what I am learning now is that it starts somewhere deeper. Those seeds of discontent about which I warned myself actually start with ingratitude. When we cease to be thankful for where the Lord has us at a particular moment, for what we do have, for the ways He has spared us, that's when the discontentment begins to grow. And that leads to a host of other problems.
So that's what I'm learning so far on this little journey. And I'm only on Chapter 3.