One of my dearest friends and I have known each other for more than twenty years. Years ago, we both lived in the same apartment complex and often shared meals to save money. We had very little to call our own. As young single moms, we had furnished our government-issued apartments, albeit sparingly, with previously-owned, heavily-used, furniture, bedding, dishes, and the like. Often, we were the thankful recipients of others’ throwaways. We stretched every dollar, further than imaginable. We worked long hours and often had more debt than dollars. We clipped coupons, worked multiple jobs, held garage sales, etc. – whatever was necessary to ensure we provided for our young families.
There is something about my friend that struck me years ago, and it is still true today. She is the most grateful woman I have ever met. I mean, she is truly, truly grateful. Whatever the season, this girl just oozes thanksgiving. Sadly, I cannot say that I exhibit that same sense of gratitude every day.
In recent months, I have become increasingly aware of the lack of gratitude that many of us suffer with. There is a seemingly growing trend among people who have a sense of expectation that something is somehow owed to us for our very existence.
If we’re hungry and the food bank is passing out bread, we want two loaves instead of just one. If the church is giving away free coffee after Sunday service, we’re irritated that it isn’t Starbucks. If we’re single, we want to be married. If we’re married, we want a better spouse. We want to be thinner, prettier, and richer. We want a good job, then a better one. Then, that job is no longer the best job, so we search for the next job.
We’re raising children who are just as bad. They often aren’t grateful for the new toy; they want the best toy. They aren’t sensitive to financial boundaries, because culture (that’s us) permeates the greed of more, more, more. And the pursuit of that façade will never make us happy or fulfilled or thankful.
As a child, can you remember possessing a sense of wonder about the world? Do you remember looking to the sky in awe of how big and blue and impressive it was? Do you remember saying childhood prayers where you thanked God for the flowers, the trees, and the very air you breathed? We were thankful for moms and dads and sisters and brothers, a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. What age does that shift? When do we stop being thankful for the little things and the big ones? When do we determine that only the ones we deem big are worth thanking God for? In fact, what gives us the right to even categorize any of God’s blessings on our lives as small?
If we aren’t grateful for this thing, we will never be grateful for that thing – whatever that thing is. It’s true. That new hair color, promotion, ministry opportunity, job, car, house, or friend will never do. We will always be looking for the next best thing.
Here are 4 habits I’m cultivating to ensure I have a gratitude attitude every day:
Choose to be grateful for what you have
It’s a daily choice. We may not have everything we are praying for right now, but God is our provider and there are others who suffer with greater lack than we do in almost every hour. God is a good god, who has given us good things. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God’s plans for us are for a hopeful future. What do you have that you can be thankful for today? Do you have access to worship in a local church? Do you have access to transportation, food, clothing? Do you own a Bible? Do you have your health? Do you have children? A best friend? A loving pastor? A job? Education? Breath?
Keep a journal
It seems simple, but there have been many times in my life that I cried out to God, begging him for something. I was overwhelmed or distraught about a situation that seemed huge at the time. But I can’t tell you how many times God answered a prayer that I completely forgot that I had even prayed! Being able to refer back over years of journals allows me to see the evidence of God’s hand at work in my life.
Keep your head from swiveling
Yep, stop looking left and right at everything everyone else has going on. Don’t worry about how much money they make, how eloquently the speak, how beautiful they sing, or how pretty they are. God made you, your life, and the plan He has for you completely separate and unique. The constant comparison of what she has that we don’t is the very reason we can’t be thankful for God’s blessings in our life.
Remember that we deserve death
We aren’t owed anything but eternal separation from God. (See Romans 6:23). But in God’s amazing grace, He chose to send us a Savior in His son, Jesus. If God never does anything else for you in your lifetime (which is unlikely), understand that he’s already paid the ultimate price, so that we don’t get what we deserve!
Jennifer Maggio is the author of four books and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is a wife and mother of three who is passionate about seeing single mothers and hurting women live a life of freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.