Would you like to join me in a 30-Day Choosing Gratitude Challenge?
I’m so excited to be sharing this project with my sem wives discipleship group and I’d love for you to hop on the band wagon, too! Each day includes a passage of Scripture (usually quite short), a few devotional thoughts, and a specific challenge or prayer prompt. For example, today’s suggestion is:
Ask the Lord to cultivate in you a more grateful heart over these next thirty days. If you have realized that your “Gratitude Quotient” is not what it should be, confess your ungrateful spirit to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you and to transform you into a truly thankful person.
What could come of this but good? Additional reading from God’s Word and encouragement in the area of gratitude to Him. Sign this ungrateful heart up!
Here’s the link: Growing In Gratitude 30 Day Challenge
I’ll kick off this challenge with a public thank you to the Lord for providing Andrew as my life partner. Recently I have been working through a handful of challenging circumstances and Andrew has been right there next to me in each one, encouraging, counseling, listening, and gently correcting me as I stumble along. He chooses to take the time I need to talk through issues that arise even though the demands of the semester are expanding rapidly as December draws near. He’s making the conscious decision to prioritize me and my emotional and spiritual needs above homework and other responsibilities. That’s love in action. And that’s just one of the gazillion reasons I’m grateful for him.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for matching me up with a man perfectly suited to do life with me! I am blessed far beyond what I deserve!
Your turn. What are you thankful for? Direct your gratitude to the One Who deserves it all!
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
Ostrich or Chicken?
When it comes to focusing on the good things God is doing in and around me, and being aware of, informed about, and prayerful for bigger issues further removed from my immediate life and circumstances, I seem to bounce back and forth between two extremes.
I’m an ostrich with its head happily buried in the sand, thriving in my bubble, ignoring the turmoil that’s at large in our nation, the greater church of America, and beyond.
Or I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, forgetting my blessings, freaking out, and trying to fix propaganda, defend honest people, and save babies.
Both approaches alone are wrong.
Like pretty much everything in life, I need to find a God-honoring balance.
God wants me to be excited about what’s happening in my sphere. It’s where He’s placed me, and there are good things going on here that I should support, participate in, celebrate, and enjoy. That’s kind of a no-brainer.
But my little world isn’t where life starts and stops. Awareness of what is taking place elsewhere does a few things:
- Wards off tunnel vision and inspires broader perspective.
- Humbles me.
- Encourages me with good things occurring apart from “my world”.
- Incites thankfulness for “how good I’ve got it” here.
- Reminds me that this life is temporary.
I believe God wants to help me find that joyful balance between contentment with where I’m at and concern for people elsewhere. Rather than fret, I should bring all issues (both personal and widespread) to God in prayer. Freaking out is never a healthy or productive approach. It distracts me from the gospel, which then causes friction and negativity with the people around me.
The more I’m aware of my tendency toward the extremes, the more I can seek God’s grace in fine-tuning me and fashioning me into the joyful, prayerful Christian I desire to be. I don’t want to be the ostrich, with its head buried in the sand, or the chicken, running around with its head cut off. I want to serve with gladness where God places me, without becoming indifferent to the world around me. And when the population’s problems and decline feel too depressing to bear, I want to be encouraged and take heart in all the good that God is bringing about in the seemingly little ways.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
I’ve spent a lot of my life pining away for “the next thing”. Driver’s license, college, a relationship, marriage…isn’t there always something more to want? I fought uphill battles to hang onto contentment, and lost many of them. Maybe it’s all those failures that are making this current victory in Jesus so sweet.
Granted, I have countless undeserved blessings to enjoy. Yet because the human heart seems to default to craving just one more thing, I could still find myself unsatisfied even in the midst of this wonderful life. Praise be to Him and Him alone, the lessons He taught me through past struggles seem to finally be sinking into this stubborn heart, and I am learning to go to Jesus with every longing, rather than to people, things, and circumstances.
Many of my “young married friends” are having babies. We’ve been married over two years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were struggling with a desire for children. Yet while I am very much looking forward to Lord-willing reaching that step one day, I am so completely content with our family of two. I thank God for that, because the old Abigail of a few years ago would most certainly be in the pining stages at this point. God has grown me in appreciating the beauty and preciousness of right now and the enjoyment of my Savior that is missed when my heart gets distracted with what I do not yet have. It’s tremendously freeing to settle into His plan and leave the future up to Him. (After all, it’s up to Him regardless, isn’t it?)
I am also very grateful to the Lord for peace about moving away. It takes but a moment of pondering August’s goodbyes and my eyes are brimming, it is true. But the soul can be joyful and sad all at the same time. My fleshly self wants desperately to live in the Pacific Northwest forever, growing our roots here, enjoying the comforts and security of family, friends, familiarity, and a church we know and love. It is a safe place. It is all I have known. It is home. But God is calling us outside of our box to something different, and in His love and mercy, He has faithfully prepared my heart to let go of a dream I’ve wanted so badly to cling to.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: God’s timing and work is clearly sovereign and perfect. Had He placed me in the position I’m in now (waiting for children and moving away) a year or two ago, my reaction could have been pretty ugly. But He has been molding me to be ready for this season of life, and He has not given me more than I can handle in His boundless grace.
It is encouraging to look back and see the growth He has brought about in me. It gives me great hope for all the sin and shortcomings that I’m still wallowing in today. I trust Him to show me progress in those areas, in time, as well. Slowly, I am becoming Who I already am in Him. I believe that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to continue that good work until it is perfected. (Phil. 1:6) I am seeing that promise in action.
Lest this post imply otherwise, I am not of the opinion that I can cross contentment off my “spiritual list” now. It’s one of those areas that I know I’ll always need to beg the Lord to help me with, and I’ve certainly not mastered it, nor will I ever this side of Heaven. Baby steps have been taken, and more will be needed as we journey on, He and I, together.
Much to be written on this subject in future posts, specifically regarding what constitutes contentment for the believer. In a word, it is Jesus. But what does that look like? We’ll explore His truth together. To God be all the glory, great things He has done!
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:12-14)