The Habit of Gratitude
Gratitude is not hard but it is a habit.
If gratitude is a habit it's also safe to say ingratitude is also a habit. You will bend toward one or the other. Gratitude and ingratitude are muscles. The muscle you strengthen will be the one you grow and will ultimately become the muscle you lean to.
The mindset of ingratitude comes very easily when we spend our time strengthening it. It's not hard to see what is wrong with everything around us. Things in the world are not as they should be. We don't have to turn on the television to know what our kids face today are things they should not have to face. We live lives of struggle.
We struggle with our jobs, our families, our callings, our kids, our relationships, our future, our finances and ultimately our freedoms. We struggle to make ends meet, to seek after healing, to grow as a disciple, to find time to fit it all in. And with all that struggling no wonder sometimes we even struggle to be nice!
But what I've learned over time is, that which you face, you embrace. Meaning; if you face your lack, you embrace your lack. If you face what you don't have, what you've lost, what you're not getting, where you're not going. If you face what your spouse isn't saying, what he isn't finishing and how she won't change. If all you ever do is face what's not happening or the bad news of what is happening, then the only story you are ever going to see is a story of deficit. And deficit is not the story of the Scriptures.
What you face is what you see and what you see ultimately becomes what you believe. And to take it one step further, what you believe ultimately becomes the place from which you live.
Our God is ruthlessly committed to rebuilding, restoring and redeeming. He goes to the farthest lengths to make wrong things right and bad things good. He's done it from the very beginning and He is still doing it today.
God is always present and always working and this is Good News because the God who is present is like Jesus. There is Good News happening around us every moment of our day. It's there because He's there. Somedays we will have to search harder than other days, but Scripture promises us when we seek Him we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13.)
Matthew 6:22, "The eye is the lamp to the body."
Psalm 101:3, "I will not set my eyes before anything that is worthless."
Or listen to this prayer from David.
Psalm 13:1-4, "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall."
As long as David's eyes were not lit up he struggled with sorrow in his soul. As he looked at the wrong things, he had to battle the wrong things. Instead of spending his time worshipping, he wrestled through defeated and deflated thoughts. This is so prominent in the lives of those I talk to. We struggle with sorrow, depression, betrayal, bitterness, brokenness and we wonder how long it's going to last, how hard we're going to have to work and how hurt we will be in the end. David cries out to the Lord, "light up my eyes." He says, "help me see you. Show me where you are. Help me to see what you're doing."
David had to activate his seeing muscle so he could stop looking at what was going wrong and start recognizing what was going right. Gratitude is a habit and it stems from learning to become people who recognize and live out of the Good News unfolding around us. Habits are formed through repetition. The more we do them, the easier we do them.
Psychology Today says, "Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. Old habits can be difficult to break, and healthy habits are often harder to develop than one would like. That's because the behavioral patterns we repeat most often are etched into our neuropathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it's possible to form—and maintain—new habits."
Sounds a lot like Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
As we repent or turn away from what God isn't doing, we realign ourselves with what He is doing we are discipling ourselves to partner with our transformation. Do this enough and our minds will change enough for this to be our new bent. Rather than instinctively seeing what's not happening we will instinctively see what is happening. Leading us to the ability to live naturally thankful and gracious lives.
Want to know the way of your bend. Do some digging with yourself by asking the following questions.
Which do you recognize first; what's going right or what's going wrong?
What do you see first; what you have or what you need?
What do you notice when you walk in the room; the mess or the people?
When you think of your life what comes to mind; all you still have to get done or all you've already overcome?
What do you say when you speak of your church; all God's doing or all they need to fix?
Where does your mind go when you are at odds with someone you love; to all their deficits or strengths?
What do you measure when you think about your finances; all you have access to or all you still need to save toward?
If your natural bent is toward deficit then do the work of repentance. Turn away from what you lack and turn toward all you have. This is the best way to join the Father in His work. A posture open to Him naturally becomes a posture of gratitude. Don't believe me? Try it, just for a little bit, and see what happens. Matter of fact, try it this Thanksgiving. Go into the season with a heart focused on abundance. Live from what you've been given instead of all you still need and see if the posture of your heart doesn't help you live with abounding gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!
I am beyond thankful for you!