Being thankful isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s easier to become so focused on the things that are going wrong in your life that you feel like gratitude is nothing more than a pipedream. While we understand that God wants His people to be thankful, there are times where it’s just not a natural instinct.
Since we are led by the Holy Spirit, we understand that reacting naturally isn’t what we’re called to do. So how can you find gratitude in the face of adversity?
Understanding that we’re supposed to be thankful isn’t hard for most of us. We know that gratitude is an expected response to the good things that God has given us in our lives. We understand that the Bible says that we should be “thankful in all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but if we’re being truly honest, there are times where being thankful isn’t a natural reaction.
Instead, it’s much more natural for us to look at what we don’t have and wonder why. It’s natural for us to look at what others have and then wonder why God is giving them all the things that we’re asking for.
Gratitude is not a naturally growing flower in the garden of our lives. Instead, it’s something that we have to purposely plant, nurture, and cultivate. Being thankful isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely natural, but it’s exactly what we’re supposed to do.
So how do you achieve something that is so unnatural? In a world that tells you that your happiness is found in what you have and how much you’re worth, how do you find gratitude when you’re not sure that you really have anything to be thankful for?
Changing Relationship Dynamics
Romans 12:9-12 (TPT)
Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another, and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask. Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous. Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family.
Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another. Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement ass you serve him. Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times.
Paul understood the importance of relationships. Not only do the epistles that he wrote to the churches that he planted indicate that he was still informed about what was going on, but we can read about how he traveled with companions in the Gospel and was often heartbroken when people who he considered friends walked away from him in times of need.
That could be why Paul spoke on the importance of “being devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family.” Additionally, Paul said that we should “try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
Humans are naturally competitive people. Many historians and scientists believe that it goes back thousands of years to when people were forced to go out and hunt for the food that they needed to feet their families. The people who lived in a given area were in constant competition with one another for the food that they all needed.
However, Paul says that we shouldn’t view our relationships with others through the lens of competition. Instead of feeling like we have been shortchanged when a brother or sister in Christ receives something, we should only be at competition with ourselves about how we can love one another more.
One of the most practical ways to cultivate gratitude in your life is to stop creating a competition with other people in your mind. Not only is it an unfair competition, as the other person rarely knows they’re competing, but it also leaves you feeling ungrateful for the things you have and envious of the blessings that others have received.
Shifting Your Perspective on Your Finances
Philippians 4:11-12 (TPT)
I’m not telling you this because I’m in need, for I have learned to be satisfied in any circumstance. I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
One of the most common areas for us to experience a lack of gratitude is in our finances. That’s not anything new. People have always experienced stress about having enough money. That’s probably why money and possessions are such popular topics in Scripture.
God knew that money was always going to be a source of stress for people, which is probably why there are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that discuss money and possessions. Additionally, out of the 39 parables of Christ that are recorded in the four Gospels, 11 of them involve finances and possessions.
If we’re being honest, we care more about money than we probably should. Sure, we cover that infatuation up with phrases like, “I have bills to pay.” While that’s certainly true, that’s not the only reason that we stress about money. We experience stress over money because we’re worried about not having all of the things that we believe are necessary to create the image that we want to create.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. However, you can experience true gratitude when you shift your perspective about money from money being something that you covet to something that you use to get by. Paul knew about being comfortable and losing virtually everything, but he found his contentment in Christ. We can do the same.
Creating New Habits
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
According to some studies, you can create a new hobby in around 18 days. In Romans 12:2, Paul told the Roman Church that they should renew their minds so they could discern the will of God for their lives. In another Scripture, Paul outlined very clearly what one aspect of God’s will is.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
There are things that you can do to make gratitude a habit in your life, which will help you be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The steps that you can take don’t even have to be very dramatic. For instance, set an alarm on your phone for a certain time every day that you know you will be alone.
Give yourself a few minutes to think of five things that you’re truly thankful for. For instance, if your morning commute lasts 30 minutes, set your alarm for the time that you pull out of your driveway. For the next minute, verbalize five things that you’re grateful for in your life. Soon, this will become a habit, and you’ll start doing it without the alarm.
You can also take steps every day to change the way that your brain works. Dr. Caroline Leaf, an author and neuroscientist says, “When you thin, you change the structure of your brain.” If you spend some time every day thinking about things you’re thankful for, it will change the way your thought process works.
Finally, start telling one person something that you’re thankful for every day. When creating new habits, this is an especially powerful one, as it can also create new relationships in your life.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I want to be more thankful for the things that You have given me in my life. I know that I’m prone to take some things for granted, but I’m committing myself to change that today. I will be more thankful. In Christ’s name, Amen.