Recently our pastor asked us to keep a journal of three things that we are grateful for each day for a month. This is not a new practice for me, but I’m really enjoying the process with a group of believers together. I’ve loved hearing people dialogue about how it is changing their perspective. As we ponder what we are grateful for, it sometimes surprises us to find that it is not just the big things, but often the little details of life that capture our gratitude. Developing a heart of gratitude is a habit we must cultivate. It takes being intentional. In my own life when I don’t stop and take notice of the things and people for which I’m grateful, I miss the grace moments God is pouring out to bless me. I miss the abundance. I miss the slowing down and taking in the treasures and the memories. So this Thanksgiving holiday week and in the weeks ahead, I encourage you to do the same. Take the time, reflect on events, details, people and circumstances of each day and write down at least 3 things that you are grateful for. You might even find more if you look. Sometimes it’s even harder to do during the holidays. Often we find ourselves so consumed with the busyness of the holiday feasts that our souls come up empty.
I remember when the Lord first began teaching me about what a heart of gratitude and praise looked like. It was way back in my early journey through the Word when I spent a year studying the Psalms of David. There were many things that I saw in the life of this one God called “a man after His own heart.” One thing that struck me most profoundly was his heart to praise, no matter what situation He was facing. David usually starts out a Psalm proclaiming the truths about God’s character and promises, then often honestly "reminds" the Lord about his personal struggles, (and truly there often were life threatening circumstances), but he seems to always conclude with exclamations of praise to His God! His Psalms are a model for us on where to keep our focus. David honestly pours out his heart and trouble to God, but knows that his hope is in God's power, faithfulness and sovereignty. There is only One who can deliver. Only One who deserves the praise. That year in the Psalms changed my perspective and my relationship with the Lord as I learned to trust Him with not only the easy things in my life, but also the struggles, the situations that at the time seemed impossible.
As I think back over the years, the next tool the Lord brought into my faith journey on gratitude was a little book entitled 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Meyers. It is a devotional book of praise and prayers based on Scripture designed to help you form the habit of praise and gratitude. I have given it away to countless friends and pulled it out to reread at least ten times I’m sure through the years. The practice of praise and thanksgiving changes your heart and your life because it changes what you see in each situation.
Recently, I pulled out a study book that I had done on thankfulness several years ago from my journey with 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp and began to reread through my answers. I was particularly struck by the section on looking for buried treasure. It can be easy to find treasure and a heart of gratitude when life is going smoothly. But, what about the seasons of struggle, those hard places, the conflicts, those painful times? Maybe you are in one of those now. If you are, as I was at the time I did that study, I encourage you to take some time to dig deep and find the Treasure where you think He can’t be found, If you dig you can even find treasure in those places of confusion or pain.
Consider praying, “Father, help me see the beauty of Jesus in these moments, too. Help me find the heart of gratitude and joy even when it is buried deep.” If you determine to make it a challenge like a treasure hunt, you may be surprised to find that even joy can be found in your search for God in the deep, hard places where you couldn’t see Him before.
This week try asking the questions below and write down your answers. Consider how you have discovered more of Christ in the search. The treasure may be in your own heart or in the work Jesus did in another's life through the struggle.
He is the Treasure you seek!
The hard place I dug and searched:
The treasure and gift I discovered:
Sometimes it’s hard to see a treasure in a painful situation. Ask the Father to give you His eyes to see that person, or that conflict.
As I read over some of my answers from a few years ago, some of the situations still haven’t changed. Yet, God in the process has given me His eyes to see things differently. I can even see beauty through the pain of things in the past. That’s how He carves the heart of gratitude within us. That’s how we learn the way of faith to choose to seek and see God in everything.
In my life it’s been a process, a discipline, a reminder to keep my focus on Jesus
and not my circumstances or the pain or struggles of those I love.
There may be things or people in your life where you can’t see the treasure yet. That’s ok. Simply choose to release it by faith into God’s heart and the control of His Spirit. Pray and ask Jesus to help you. Ask for restoration. Ask for joy. Ask for His eyes and His heart of love and grace. As I look back now on my list that I made, I see how He has faithfully answered my prayers.
These are some of the gifts I learned or relearned from this process of digging for treasures in the hard and ugly places of my life:
I learned more deeply how to love well.
I learned again it’s not about me!
I learned to trust, to wait, to rest in His purpose.
I learned again to let go of trying to control the situation!
I saw those I love persevere in difficult circumstances and mature in their faith.
I learned to look for His beauty in the ugly.
I learned more deeply that He is always faithful to supply my needs.
For these gifts I’m so grateful. I’m also grateful that I took the time to write them down and keep a record. As I read over my list I was honest. It wasn’t too pretty. It was actually quite messy. But now, because I wrote the hard places down, I have a record of the faith lessons I learned. I’m grateful that I learned through the Psalms and life of David so long ago that I don’t have to bring a fixed up, prettied up life to my Savior. He meets me right where I am and takes the struggles, the pain, the confusion and in His perfect timing uses them to transform my life and my heart toward joy and gratitude. He is good. He can be trusted. I'm grateful for the people in Scripture, in my life, and the authors in books who have mentored me in my journey.
So go ahead, in this season of Thanksgiving, dig for that treasure you’ve been trying to hide or simply couldn’t see through the pain. In the process you may be surprised at the beauty you unearth. You were created to be a vessel used for His glory! Now that’s something to be thankful for! And don’t forget to thank Him as you write down those little details of wonder and joy in your life along the way. Start your own gratitude list.
This holiday as you prepare the food for the Thanksgiving feast, consider how you can tend to a feast of thankfulness for your soul.
You will never regret the time you spend cultivating a habit of praise!
Think of the legacy of gratitude you’ll leave behind one day!
Father, thank you that You are interested in every detail of my life and character.
Thank you that Your heart is to use any difficulties that I face as an opportunity to see You work in my life.
Thank you that You enrich my life through each problem and situation when I let You use them
to expose my need, my sin, or my pride. Thank you that through the difficult seasons of my life
You have humbled me and perfected my faith and used those circumstances to ultimately bring me
to a place of greater abundance and a deeper understanding of the depth of Your love.
Keep my eyes and my heart focused on You. Help me to slow down,
take in the moments, the memories, the joy and the pain in a way that I conclude each day
with gratitude that You have been with me and worked in me through it all.
Help me not to miss the wonders and beauty You bless me with each day.
Give me the courage to dig deeply into the treasure of You in every situation.
Thank you for the promises, truth and treasure found in Your Word.
Keep my heart tender to the truth and to those You love.
Father, by your grace, give meYour eyes to see, Your ears to hear,
and a mouth that speaks boldly the praises of You who alone are Worthy
of all the honor, glory and praise!
In Jesus Name,
Wishing you a feast for you soul this holiday,
Resources: Images Pinterest, Study Guide 1000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp
Looking for something special this Christmas Season? Restore Ministries is offering a beautiful Christmas Arts Event for everyone December 12, 7PM at Lod Cook LSU. Come experience the body of Christ coming together for an evening of worship to our Savior as musicians from 14 different churches gather to present a beautiful weaving of Scripture, music, drama, and worship, ending with a dessert reception fellowship. You'll be ushered into the beauty of the season with a 50 voice choir, children's choir and original drama led by Ken and Kathy Drake and Brian and Sherry Barron.
Purchase your tickets on our website today!!!! $20 Adults, $10 Students. Seating is limited!
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