An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever read a book that seems to mirror how you’re feeling? Recently I finished one called “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niquest (2010) that really spoke to me. Here is a brief excerpt:

“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a silver lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness. Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and the soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the callouses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy” (Niequest, 2010).

This move has felt very bittersweet. There’s an excitement about change along with the sadness of leaving mixed with the anxiety that comes from the unknown. I’ve found that it becomes easy to focus on the bitter and forget the sweet that accompanies the journey. When we feel broken or shaken, we often fail to reflect on the goodness of God in our lives. All too often, I’ve wallowed in my own pity party.

My Bible reading journey has taken me to Psalms. I see so many wonderful themes in these passages. One recently has been God’s unfailing love, which I have highlighted over and over again. The other has been the word ‘tell.’ For example:

  • “Sing the glory of His name. Tell the world how glorious He is!” Psalm 66:2
  • “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.” Psalm 66:16
  • Tell everyone about God’s power…” Psalm 68:34a
  • “I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me. I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord. I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.” Psalm 71:15-16
  • “I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long…” Psalm 71:24

I believe God wants us to tell others what He has done and what He is currently doing in our lives. When we tell about God’s faithfulness, I think we begin to see the beauty and grace there is in having bitter and sweet together. We can tell of hardships and a God who saves! We can admit to our struggles and the perfection of Jesus. We can see what we have and compare that with who God is. I think telling of what God has done completely changes our perspective on the here and now, and I will add that it gives us a new appreciation for what God has done, even in the most difficult of times.

Moving has shaken up my ‘comfortable’ world, it’s true. But it’s also brought me a new appreciation for how much I need God every moment of my life. We had a situation recently that I can’t really share too much about, but we were fervently praying for God to help in a way that only He could. He was literally our only hope! And did God fail? No! His saving grace was evident in our lives. He has helped us in so many ways, including guiding us here and helping us find a home in just the right timing. We trust Him to provide us with what we need, and I am overjoyed to be able to “tell the world how glorious He is.”

This morning I turned off my alarm and skipped my run (boo!). My kids also slept in and it was just before my husband needed to be at work that we all woke up. We haven’t slept in that late even one day this summer!!! YIKES! We got ready in a rush, and as I was praying for the kiddos on the way to school aloud in the car, I thanked God that we were able to get more rest than usual. Joshua quickly asked, “Mom, did you just thank God that we’re running late?” I shared with him my favorite verses from the Bible: “Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. I said there have been people whose lives have been saved from sleeping in (think of those who weren’t at work on 9/11/01!). We might have needed the rest, or God might have been saving us from something else. And as I reflected on my morning, I smiled that my husband didn’t just rush to get ready for work (like he should have) but also helped me get the boys ready for school because he is so loving and patient. It was totally my fault that we were behind schedule but he didn’t so much as raise his voice about it but instead was helpful and encouraging. I was able to give thanks for my spouse because I took the time to reflect on God’s goodness to us, even in “darker moments.” (Now, pray with me that he doesn’t get fired! Ha ha!)

A theme I’ve been recognizing lately is one of gratitude. Are we giving thanks, even in the hard times? Do we have enough or do we always long for more? Can we recognize that even bitter is good for us because it helps us recognize and appreciate the sweet all the more? Can we see that God develops character and His will in our lives through the difficult circumstances? Can we appreciate that He knows the big picture and accept what He allows to come our way? This isn’t an easy word. In fact, it’s downright difficult most of the time! But, can we choose perspective? Can we choose joy always? Can we choose to be thankful no matter what the circumstance? Can we choose to pray and keep in communication with God at all times?

I’ve had a hard couple of weeks, but I realize that there was so much sweetness I was ignoring as I’ve been getting pummeled by (and wallowing in) the bitter. So, moment by moment, step by step, I’m going to try to choose an attitude of gratitude. “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and honor Him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing an ox or presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help live in joy” Psalm 69:30-32.

I’m anxious to hear what God is doing in your life! Do TELL about His glorious deeds as it will strengthen the faith of all who hear it! Encourage others with your unique story and how God is at work in both big and small ways.

Dear God, thank You for both the bitter and the sweet. Thank You for the good times and the bad. Thank You for Your plans and Your purposes. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see things with Your perspective. May we always come before You with a heart of thanksgiving and praise on our lips. Thank You for all You do and for who You are. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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