It’s that time of year when words like gratitude and thankfulness abound, but what does a heart full of gratitude fully look like in today’s chaotic world? And, better still, how does having a thankful heart change our view of the world?
I know focusing on thankfulness over the past few weeks has begun a major change inside me. It all began on a rainy morning while I was curled up in bed. It was early. Too early to be up—even the sun hadn’t peeked over the horizon, but I was awake. I decided to listen to a book on Audible and chose Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I know, I’m horribly behind. One Thousand Gifts has been both sitting on my shelf in paperback form, and in my Audible dock since both versions released.
As soon as I purchased the paperback version, I dove right in, flipping rapidly through the pages, my eyes racing over the thought-provoking and lyrical words. After several chapters, I was amazed at how life-changing Ann’s story was, and it was this realization which halted my reading in its tracks. I put the book back on the shelf and walked away.
Because Ann’s words stirred my soul, reaching deep down to the hidden parts—the inner parts I’d rather forget about. The center of my feelings. The area of self-protection. The parts that say ‘If I don’t think about everything happening in the world, life will be easier to handle.’
Am I saying that I was afraid to let the truth of her words and the conviction nestled in them, sink deep into my soul? In brutal transparency and honesty, I’ll admit it: yes, I was terrified. Terrified to let the hurt of the world in. Even more terrified to let my hurt out. Oh, I had hurt. Hurt from an abusive childhood. Hurt from desertion. Hurt from so many things, and the thought of loosening my death grip on those hurts and truly asking Christ to come in and not only heal those hurts, but to thank Him instead of hiding? To thank Him for the amazing bounty of gifts that exist with each breath we take? To thank Him for my recent diagnosis of Lupus? To focus on what I was grateful for instead of harboring my hurts and ignoring the world’s suffering? I’m not going to lie. It was a scary step. What if in doing so I became vulnerable? And if I became vulnerable, couldn’t I be hurt again?
Yes. That possibility existed, but I prayed for courage. I asked God to help me be more like Daniel, Joshua, and Caleb. Men who served Him regardless of the danger it brought them, and God answered. He opened my eyes and I started each day listing all the things I was thankful for. Then the list grew as I carried it with me throughout the day and added to it, thanking God in prayer each time a new blessing was added to the list.
Less than a week into this new venture, my heart changed. Somehow a burden was lifted and the words of Christ echoed softly through my soul.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
God took my burden and replaced it with his yoke, and in the process, He opened my eyes not only to all my blessings—more than I could possibly imagine, but also to everyone else in the world. Those suffering, hurting, and struggling with poverty. He broke my heart for what broke His, and filled my heart with compassion.
With a heart overflowing with gratitude, there’s so much I want to give and so many ways I ache to serve and help. God is shaping me, molding me, refining me for His purpose in the body of Christ. I don’t exist for myself. I exist for Him and His purposes. My part is to praise Him with gratitude, and watch how He uses that to change me, and through me, hopefully serve others.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am far from perfect. I’m a massive work-in-progress, but I’m attempting to begin each day with praise. I challenge you to do the same. Keep a small notepad by your bed. Every morning when you wake, make a list of everything you’re thankful for, adding something new each day, and then spend time in prayer thanking God for every item on your list. Keep the notebook handy throughout the day so you can jot down the unexpected joys which will come your way. I love this quote by Ann Voskamp. Print it out and tape it to the front of your notebook, along with any verses that really speak to you regarding having a heart of thanks.
“In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.”
~Ann Voskamp from One Thousand Gifts
For Further Reading:
- 1 Chronicles 16:34
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Psalm 34:1
- 2 Corinthians 9:11-12
- Colossians 3: 16-17
- One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
- Giving Thanks to God (Jesus Calling Bible Studies) by Sarah Young
How would your life be different if you began each morning with an intentional time of thanks to the Lord?
What are your favorite Scripture verses on gratitude and thankfulness?
About the Author: Dani Pettrey is an author of over 300,000 copies and praised by New York Times bestselling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance novel. For more information about her novels, visit www.danipettrey.com