So how do we cultivate a life of gratitude? There are many ways to cultivate gratitude, here are a few:
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Choosing Gratitude – But Not Without Sacrifice
"Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name." Hebrews 13:15
I sat down with a pastor’s wife not long ago who two months previously had lost her husband to cancer. It had been heartbreaking for her to watch him painfully deteriorate. As I prayed before our meeting, I could sense that God was asking me to read Psalm 91.
"Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, Who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent." Psalm 91: 9-10
Knowing that Psalm 91 contained these verses, I did not want to read it, but I knew it was what I must do. I couldn’t keep back the tears as I said these words. Why was it so hard to read AND accept Psalm 91:9 and 10 after cancer just took your husband, or as in my case, the husband of a friend?
Then it dawned on me. Cancer did not take this godly man. God took him.
Psalm 91 is true!
"You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, Who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands, they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone." Psalm 91:5-7, 9-10
Cancer did not take this pastor. God in His timing chose to take Him home, and He used the cancer, in His providence and love, as the vehicle. When we begin to understand this truth, we can then offer up the sacrifice of praise referred to in Hebrews 13:15.
To understand this verse, let’s look at the book of Hebrews as a whole. Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were living during a time of great persecution and martyrdom. Many were turning away from the faith—turning away from Jesus. So really, this was written as a warning.
Throughout the book of Hebrews, Jesus, from whom they were turning away, is compared to different things.
Therefore, based on Jesus being better than the angels than Moses, than the Old Testament priests than any sacrifice that has ever been made, we must not turn away from Him. Just like the Jews in biblical days, we too can be tempted in times of pain, suffering, grief, and loss, to turn away from Jesus. But we must be willing to do what Hebrews 13:15 tells us to do. We can also add verse 16 to that, which is the outpouring of the sacrificial decision of praise.
“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:15-16
We no longer offer the Old Testament sacrifices that were temporary and insufficient. We now offer different sacrifices. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is paired with the sacrifice of giving ourselves and our resources to others. With these God is very pleased.
In these verses, the word “sacrifice” is mentioned twice. What is the meaning of the word, sacrifice? “An act of offering to a deity something precious. To suffer loss. To give up. The surrender of something for the sake of something else." —Merriam Webster
The bottom line is, sacrifice is not easy. It is an offering. It is a surrender. Have you offered a sacrifice of praise recently in your own trials? Instead of falling apart, letting out your anger, isolating yourself, and turning away from Jesus, you have instead chosen to fall on Him. To bow your knee. To cry out to Him. To praise and worship Him. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a sacrifice.
We choose to give a sacrifice of praise to God continually, like the verse says, in the good times and in the bad. We choose to acknowledge His name as Job did. Job faced crisis after crisis after crisis—the loss of his animals, his servants, and then his children—all in one hour, and what did he say? “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20).
How hard was it for Job to make that statement?
"To give thanks to Him for all things, is, indeed, a very difficult duty; for it includes giving thanks for trials of all kinds; for suffering and pain; for reproaches; for loneliness. Yet those who have learned submission will not find it a hard duty." —Priscilla Maurice
Who will not find it hard? Those who have learned submission. If we do not choose the sacrifice of gratitude, we are choosing to not submit to God’s plan. In a sense, we are turning away from Jesus.
In chapter 8 of Choosing Gratitude, Nancy recounts many instances of people who were grateful in the midst of incredible sufferings—Prison camps, persecutions, hunger, sickness and pain, slander, and even a broken engagement caused by blindness.
George Matheson, the blind man, said this:
"My God, I have never thanked you for my thorn! I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to you by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made a rainbow."
In other words, show me the beauty of this pain and suffering.
“Those who say ‘No’ to resentment and ‘Yes’ to gratitude, even in the face of excruciating pain, incomprehensible loss, and ongoing adversity, are the ones who really survive. They stand against the tide of memories, threats, loss, and sadness, and answer back. With gratitude.”
Many of us have experienced excruciating pain, incomprehensible loss, and ongoing adversity.
1995 was an especially difficult year for our family. It began on January 1 with a broken toe. The trials continued as my baby fractured his skull, our car was stolen, and I found a lump on my throat…among other hard circumstances.
In my scrapbook next to the notes I had received I wrote: “God was with me and these notes encouraged.” When we are a part of a local church our church family encourages us. Oh, how much easier it is to choose gratitude during the trials. This was true when our first grandson, Jack, passed away. The love of God through His Church was one of our most comforting memories of that time. Our church family helped us to choose gratitude.
“The choice before me and you today is: Do we only give glory to God for the part of our life that’s going the way we want? Or do we worship Him, trust Him, and give Him thanks, just because He is God—regardless of the dark, painful, incomprehensible places we encounter in our journey?” —Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Yes, it is hard to choose gratitude, but it is also hard to not choose gratitude. Either way, we are making a sacrifice. In not choosing to be grateful we are sacrificing joy, peace, and sweet fellowship with the Lord. Both choices are hard.
Someone said, “Choose your hard.” That has stuck with me. I choose to let pain draw me closer to Him. I choose the sacrifice of praise.
This past Saturday a friend’s life, along with three other lives, was tragically taken by a deranged neighbor. The image of his wife sitting in church surrounded by God’s people the next day with her hand raised in praise is a fitting picture of a sacrifice of praise.
God, please help us to choose gratitude in our pain.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1
How will you choose gratitude today?
Christian Gratitude Journal for Women
This Christian Gratitude Journal for Women is produced by Pretty Simple Press. It's a 52-week inspirational guide to a life with more prayer and less stress.
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