The Most Important Thing to Do If We Want to Become More Grateful
I can still see my friend walking toward the building. I hadn’t seen her since my husband and I returned to our hometown. The glass windows in the office allowed a person to look out while folks on the outside could not look in.
As a result, I took more liberty than I usually would as I studied her. But was this really my friend? The truth is she was nearly unrecognizable.
Thus began my walk with a woman and her life-threatening journey with anorexia. Over the next year, she said many things to me… some profound, some painful. But of all the things she shared, there is one thing I will never forget.
Several months into her recovery, she looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said, “You know, Cin, if there’s one thing I’ve figured out, it’s that life is a lot of work.”
We laughed! Number one, it was true. Number two, it was a vast understatement.
Life is a lot of work.
Not long ago, I wrote about cultivating stillness. This season I’ve been reflecting on the following verse:
“Cultivate thankfulness.” Colossians 3:15
All this cultivating made me think of my friend. Even our spiritual life requires work. If we’re not cultivating stillness, we’re trying to grow gratitude!
The good news is that we were made for work. And if anybody can take a job and turn it into an adventure, it’s God. So, I set out to see what He had to say.
Cultivate is a gardening term, so I started my treasure hunt with the parable of the Sower. Here, we’re warned that weeds may choke out that which is planted.
If you and I want gratitude to grow in our lives, we may need to look for weeds and be prepared to eliminate them.
Guilt is a weed that can choke out gratitude. If we’re not careful, we may feel so guilty over what we have that we overlook that God has been our Great Provider.
Busyness can keep gratitude from growing. We can become so stinkin’ busy we don’t even notice what we have.
Envy is also a weed. The practice of comparison is the perfect potting soil for envy. And social media is the perfect pot. There is a reason that one of the Ten Commandments is “do not covet.” God knows that such a mindset robs us of gratitude.
But there’s more to growing gratitude than just pulling weeds.
It seems obvious, but there is no harvest if there is no seed. So if you and I desire a harvest of gratitude, we’d best be looking for seeds.
We all need someone in our lives that mentors us and encourages us. Someone who, at a minimum, shows us what a life of gratitude looks like.
Now our garden of gratitude has seeds, and we’re mindful of the weeds, but we know that nothing grows without water. And there is no better water than worship.
I don’t know that I’m a “natural worshipper.” At least, not in the sense of playing music, getting on my knees, and speaking words of adoration to God. Some of my most meaningful worship experiences snuck up on me.
I pull into my driveway. The sun is beating down on the lake. It looks like it’s covered in a sequin gown as light sparkles over the surface. The sight will force me to catch my breath. Something deep within me is stirred as I marvel at God’s creation. And I worship.
I play in the grass with our puppy, and as we inadvertently roll around, I land on my back. With puppy kisses on my face and marshmallow clouds against a periwinkle background, I can’t even help myself… I worship.
Even though these precious memories of worship have been spontaneous, I believe God is strengthening my “worship muscle.” I am learning that if I stop and take the time to ponder who God is, what He has done, and what He promises to do–– I am moved to worship.
The bottom line is that we can grow gratitude by intentionally worshiping. But, of course, the form it will take may differ for each of us.
It’s been said that we can choose gratitude in some ways that is true. But I’m not convinced that this approach has staying power.
Humility, on the other hand, can become our greatest ally. When we acknowledge we are weak, we can go to the One who is strong. The One who knows…
We have weeds.
We need seeds.
We need water.
When it comes to cultivating thankfulness, the most important choice we can make is to humbly ask God for help.