What does it mean to have a grateful heart? The Lord has been challenging me with this question recently, and it is becoming evident that the condition of my heart does not always gravitate towards thankfulness. If you missed my last blog post about Maintaining Peace in the Midst of a Chaotic Life, you can check it out HERE. This post is a continuation of what was shared there in some ways. As God continues to teach me what it means to have true peace, layers and next steps become visible. Here is the truth He has revealed: you cannot have peace without gratitude. Period.
Here is the destructive pattern I battle: I become consumed with anxiety, fear and worry in the face of life’s challenges. I try to take matters into my own hands, and before I know it, I have no peace in my heart, and the situation that had me stressed is just as bad as it was before, maybe even worse. I spend so much time fighting my internal battles that I lose sight of the big picture and the sovereign, loving God who is in control. Sure, anxiety, fear and worry are “natural” and “human” responses to hardships, but these responses are in direct opposition to how the Word of God commands us to respond. Hear the Word of God:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4-7, emphasis added]
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul commands (twice) that believers are to rejoice in the Lord always. Always. Always. A-l-w-a-y-s. This command does not leave any wiggle room for times when it is difficult to rejoice and give thanks. Again in verse 6, Paul exhorts that we should not worry about anything (anything, anything, a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g), but that rather than becoming consumed by anxiety, we should carry all of our concerns to God in prayer. We are instructed to pray in every (every, every, e-v-e-r-y) situation WITH THANKSGIVING.
These two words, ‘with thanksgiving’, are the key. God graciously rewards his children who approach him with a thankful heart with one of the most precious (and seemingly allusive) gifts known to this broken world: peace. Praise that is not dependent on our circumstances and prayer rooted in gratitude are the keys to the peace we all long for.
So how can we maintain a grateful heart in our day to day lives? Check out what the Word of God has to say about it:
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name;
Make His deeds known among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
Remember [with gratitude] His marvelous deeds which He has done,
His miracles and the judgments from His mouth
[1 Chronicles 16:8-12]
Here are some practical methods for application from these scriptures:
- Tell God thank you (v. 8) and remember what He has done (v. 12). Start out your conversations with God by calling to remembrance all of the blessings you have to be grateful for. This will help you maintain perspective and keep you from forgetting all God has done in your life. Another way to remember His faithfulness is to keep a prayer journal. Document every time God answers a prayer, big or small.
- Tell others about what He has done (v. 8). Speaking of what God has done in your life brings Him glory! It helps remind you of His faithfulness, and it can also encourage brothers and sisters who might need a reminder of His goodness, so don’t be afraid to tell your story.
- Worship Him with song (v. 9). Sing your praises to God! This is a command found throughout scripture, especially in the Psalms. Worship is a weapon against the enemy and a key tool to maintaining a grateful heart.
- Seek His presence (v. 10-11). Simply be with God. Gratitude comes naturally in his presence. Verse 10 above tells us that hearts who seek the Lord will rejoice! In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). He is our strength and our shield (Psalm 28:7).
I pray the Holy Spirit will speak into your day-to-day life about what it means to have a grateful heart. I stand on the promise in Philippians that when you present your requests to God with a thankful heart, he will grant you a peace that surpasses human understanding.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. [Colossians 2:6-7]