Posted in Character, Faith

Growing in Gratitude

Thank You

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I had several activities in mind for this Thanksgiving weekend. My daughter and I figured out a cooking schedule for all our dishes. Family from the Seattle area arrived Wednesday night. We were ready for a fun, food-filled celebration. Then, later that night, one of the granddaughters got sick. My daughter was up with her every hour. Some time during the night, my grandson also got sick. There was lots of laundry on Thanksgiving Day for the soiled bedding and towels. We still managed to prepare and enjoy our meal. Everyone was in good spirits, and it seemed like the worst was over. However, on Friday afternoon some of us started to feel sick. My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson went home for their second Thanksgiving celebration. By the evening both our households were miserable.

This isn’t the first time illness has visited a holiday celebration, and it probably won’t be the last. There have been many Christmases, Easters, and Mother’s Days when one or more family members got sick, requiring adjustments to my expectations. Each time I am faced with a decision—Will I practice gratitude? Or will I practice self-pity?

I have lots of experience practicing self-pity. During my child-rearing years, feeling sorry for myself came easily. “Why is this happening to me?” “Bad things always happen on special days.” “It’s so unfair!” My mopey attitude would take an unfavorable situation and make it worse.

Many years ago I felt convicted by a passage of Scripture.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:14-15, NLT).

I have never liked arguing, but I can be really good at complaining. If I don’t guard my thoughts and attitudes, complaining can flow like water. Complaining spreads negativity and affects the people around me. Additionally, complaining damages my example as a Christ-follower. The light of Christ in me does not shine as brightly. I certainly don’t want that!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6).

Giving thanks is the opposite of complaining. (It is also a remedy to worrying.) I want to grow in gratitude. This Thanksgiving was a perfect opportunity to practice it. I was concerned that my family members felt terrible, and I did my best to help care for them. But, I wasn’t discouraged. I was out of commission for two and a half days. In the midst of my discomfort, I thanked the Lord for His continual presence with me and I prayed for healing of my family. I felt thankful that we had a long weekend to recover. I appreciated the kindness of a friend who went to the store to buy Gatorade when none of the adult in our home were able.

Every time we encounter circumstances that are less than what we would like, it is an opportunity to practice gratitude. When are you tempted to complain? How can you turn complaints into words of thanksgiving? Take the challenge to avoid complaining and practice gratitude.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are good and perfect, always loving and faithful. When times are tough at home, in the workplace, or other places in my life, help me to focus on your blessings and develop an attitude of gratitude. Help me to shine as a bright light of Christ through my attitude, words, and actions. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Character, Faith

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

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Life can be tough. We live in a fallen world, and there is a devil whose mission is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). But can I just be honest with you? Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I can be so skilled at sabotaging myself, the devil doesn’t have to be around for me to mess things up. I don’t want to dismiss the presence of evil. However, as a human being, I prefer blaming someone else when I should take responsibility for my own actions. The devil may be the tempter, but I’m the one who takes the bait.

I am so grateful for God’s promise of victorious love in Romans 8:38-39:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I’m steeped in self-sabotage mode, I believe that circumstances or people in my life block my ability to experience God’s love. If God loves me so much and His love is so powerful, why can’t I see it? I fail to realize that I, through incorrect thinking, have separated myself.

Thankfully I’m learning to detect some of my self-sabotaging attitudes more quickly these days. I am more aware of when the negative thoughts begin, and then I turn my attention to Jesus.

What are some of these self-sabotaging attitudes?

Self-pity. I adopt a victim mentality. Nothing about my situation is good and there is nothing I can do about it. Because nobody really understands the depth of my pain, I dismiss anything they say to help me as invalid.

Pride. I question God’s sovereignty and wonder if He is really in control. After all, I think that my plans, purposes, and priorities are better than His. I know what my life should look like. I am impatient with His timing and resent the detours along the way.

Unbelief. Ultimately I don’t trust the Lord with my life. I lose sight that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. As a result all I can see are limitations and lack. Fear or discouragement takes over as I assume the worst.

After recognizing self-sabotage, how do I turn my attention to Jesus?

Exchange self-pity for gratitude. God doesn’t “owe” me anything. He provided the way for me to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. That is enough, and I am truly blessed. The Lord has given me everything I am and all I that have. No matter how tough my situation, I can experience joy and peace through the Holy Spirit. I determine to be content and grateful.

Exchange pride for humility. I confess that I really don’t know what is best. I surrender my life anew to God and acknowledge that apart from Him I can do nothing. I ask the Lord for a teachable spirit and look for opportunities to serve others.

Exchange unbelief for trust. I can identify with the father in Mark Chapter 9 who begged Jesus to deliver his son. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (v. 24). I rely on grace to trust Him more. I pray for the Lord to empower me from his glorious, unlimited resources with inner strength through His Spirit. I ask for Christ to make His home in my heart, for my roots to grow down into God’s love and keep me strong (Ephesians 3:17).

Do you recognize self-sabotage in your life? How will you turn your attention to Jesus?

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You never leave me where You found me. Thank You for giving me new life and teaching me new ways of living. Help me to see when I have attitudes or do things that sabotage myself. Help me to exchange negative thoughts and actions for thoughts and actions that honor You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.