When I was a little girl, I had dreams of what my life would be. I would become a singer or a writer or a teacher, never really could figure that part out. I would go off to college and meet the love of my life while at school. I’d get married at age 24, have our 1st child at 26, another at 29, another at 32, then the final bundle of joy at 35. We’d live in a really nice house where we’d host people over for dinner. Our family would have really amazing traditions and we’d have a dog. Maybe two.
Fast forward to reality.
At the time of writing this post I am exactly 2 months away from turning 30. I have never been married, I’m not even dating! (I’ll write about that at another time). I have one daughter, who I had at age 19. I’ve been a single mom for nearly 10 years. I work as an accounting administrator, completely by accident. I live in an apartment, not a house and I have a fish, not a dog. How far off was my little fantasy?!
I find myself complaining about things. Sometimes out loud, but mostly in my heart and to God. Don’t get me wrong, I have a nice life. It’s just not the life I imagined it would be. I realize often that because the picture in my head doesn’t match up with the picture that I see that sometimes I devalue the worth of what I actually do have.
The Apostle Paul loved the churches that He helped plant and the churches that he had the privilege of overseeing. Paul wanted to see the people grow. He wanted them to learn to be like Christ and to take on Christ likeness. This was the case with the church at Thessalonica. Paul went into this region and in three weeks, the gospel of Jesus radically changed these people. The letter of 1 Thessalonians was written to the people to help correct some faulty thinking, but also to encourage the people to continue to do what they were already doing.
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
As Paul closes the letter, he tells the people many things to remember. I want to focus on just three of them. The three things that Paul teaches are:
Three Ways To Have A Grateful Heart
1. Always Be Joyful, verse 16
Joy isn’t an emotion based on circumstances. Joy is a something that is produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). I remember reading some years ago about the difference between Joy and Happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. The root word in happy is “hap” which is the same root that you find in the word happen. Our happiness is based on outside stimuli. So when things are good, we’re happy, but when things are contrary to what we desire them to be, our happiness goes away. But joy is much deeper. It’s something that cannot be changed or taken away. When we allow the Spirit of God to develop a joy in us, we are able to be grateful, no matter what comes our way. The Bible teaches us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy gives us the ability to properly disposition our attitude toward gratitude.
2. Never Stop Praying, verse 17
Prayer is such a wonderful thing. It is the way that we keep in communication with God. If we never stop praying, or as another transaction says, pray without ceasing, we enable ourselves to always be open to what God wants to say to us and what He wants to show us. Constant prayer keeps us in mind of who God is and what He’s done. It allows us to remind ourselves of who is on our side. How can we not be be grateful when we remember that the God of the universe is for us and that we can have direct access to Him and at all times?! A friend of mine put it like this, “Constant prayer decreases the distance between you and God.” And for this, we ought to forever be grateful.
3. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus, verse 18
I was studying a passage of scripture in Luke and as I read the commentary by David Guzik, I came across this account:
Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, was robbed of his wallet once. He wrote in his diary that night all the things he was thankful about:
– First, that he had never been robbed before.
– Second, that though they took his wallet, they did not take his life.
– Third, because even though they took it all, it wasn’t very much.
– Finally, because he was the one who was robbed and not the one who was robbing
What a beautiful picture of being thankful in all circumstances? Matthew Henry had the perfect opportunity to be angry, but instead he chose thankfulness. I bet if we looked at the things in our lives, good and bad, differently, that we would find that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
I could complain about the things in my life that aren’t the way I thought they would be. Instead of complaining that I’m not married, I choose to be grateful that God is preparing me for the right time and the person He has for me. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to experience divorce due to making the wrong choice. I could complain that I work in accounting and that I’m not a writer, but instead, I choose to be grateful that I have a really good job. It’s not like the jobs I’ve had in the past where I was miserable going to work. I could complain about a lot of things, but instead, I choose to be grateful. My life is exactly the way that God planned for this moment. Nothing more and nothing less.
And for that, I’m forever grateful.
What are some things in your life that you choose to find gratitude in? What are you thankful for? Let me know! You know I always want to hear from you!
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