“A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” Proverbs 15:13 The Message (MSG)
We have a saying in our house –ok it may be more accurate to say that I have a saying in our house. Admittedly, it is the source of many eye rolls. Despite that, it’s a good saying – a true saying. Here’s how it typically plays out. I say to my family (ad nauseam if you ask them), “Remember guys, much of our experience is based on our?” I wait for a response. “Attitude,” they reply with all the enthusiasm of last night’s leftovers (this would also be the proper time to insert an overly expressive eye roll.) Despite my kids lackluster retort, the fact remains that God said it first so, I know it’s both a true and biblically backed sentiment.
When we determine to have a thankful, positive, encouraging, grateful attitude it pointedly affects our experiences. We tend to be more intentional about the idea during this time of year don’t we? We think and talk about gratitude and thankfulness. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a wonderful thing. As I study scripture though, I understand that really, truly our attitude is to be one of gratitude 24/7-365. The Lord basically tells us, “Hey kiddo, you know what? You give me thanks with your attitude.” During times when I’m simply overwhelmed by the abundance of my blessings I have an exceptional, almost overwhelming need to express my thanks to the Lord. I yearn for a way to somehow, someway express how deeply grateful I am for this life and the blessings I enjoy. During those times I find this idea very helpful. It becomes an action item and for this “doer” that fits well. I can “do” something to say thank you, and that is to have an outstanding attitude.
You totally see what’s coming though don’t you? Yep, that’s right, the flip side. The, “Oh! Hi! I’m not feeling particularly thankful and my attitude stinks like dirty gym socks,” side of the coin. The same instructions that bring me comfort and satisfaction when all is well and easy, challenge me to the core when it’s not. When I feel tired, tattered, my clothes are tight, I’m feeling unappreciated, unseen, uninspired, bitter, bossy and even a little bit bruised, putting on an “attitude of gratitude” sounds like something that belongs on a cheesy crocheted wall hanging more than an inspiring nugget of truth. Am I alone? Sometimes choosing to operate out of an attitude of thankfulness is just flat hard.
Here’s the thing though, while we do give thanks with our attitudes, it’s important to settle something. It’s important to recognize that God asks us to rejoice with gladness for our own sakes. Now, certainly it brings Him glory and honors Him which should be motivation enough. There’s a bigger part B though and that is solely, 100% about us. Father God desires that we live from a habitual heart and mindset of thankfulness, with a thankful attitude, because it bring US joy, hope, and peace. Gratitude – praise – it PRECEDES joy and peace. Praise actually manifests joy and THAT is the heart of the Father toward us. He doesn’t ask us to be thankful in all circumstances and then sit back like some manipulative con man, laughing a maniacal laugh, thinking, “Ha! Good luck with that!” No. He tells us to live a LIFE of thankfulness so THAT we will enjoy peace in His presence. What’s more, not only is He not setting us up, scripture tells us that He gives us strength to live from a place of gratitude even when we don’t feel like it. Psalm 138 says, “Lord, with all my heart I thank you. I will sing your praises before the armies of angels. I face your Temple as I worship, giving thanks to you for all your loving-kindness and your faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. When I pray, you answer me and encourage me by giving me the strength I need.” Not only does a good attitude and a life of thankfulness yield increased joy, it also gives you strength. The more you express gratitude in all situations, the easier it becomes in the times you don’t particularly feel like it.
We also repeatedly see in scripture that praise and a thankful attitude are received by the Lord as an offering and a sacrifice. This tells me that He gets that it’s hard to be thankful when we don’t feel like being thankful. He honors us for making the choice to do the hard thing, which, in some cases is choosing joy, choosing gratitude, choosing a good attitude when we really feel like throwing a pouty temper-tantrum that would impress even the snarliest of toddlers.
How amazing that He’s gracious enough to receive our effort as offering. So what’s it look like to operate out of an attitude that’s grounded in thankfulness? I can tell you that for me it’s inspired by a verse in Habakkuk. In the final chapter, the Prophet recites a list of devastating possibilities that lie ahead for his people, I’m talking an actual bad day. One single word in the verse particularly rocks and inspires me – the word “yet.” After describing calamitous circumstances, Habakkuk resolves to remain in thankfulness. Verse 18 says, “YET, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength!”
I’m inspired by Habakkuk’s faith and realize that if he can stay rooted in joyfulness despite honest to goodness despair, certainly I can muster up the resolve to shout joyfully to the Lord during times when….
I’m presenting a bold challenge. One I pray extends far beyond the holiday season. I'm challenging myself and I challenge you to join me. I’m determined to give the Lord thanks with my attitude in daily, good days and bad, real life. I challenge you to notice with me how your attitude shapes your experiences. I challenge you to make an attitude of gratitude more than 30-days of social media posts, more than a rotation around the dinner table on the 23rd sharing what you’re most thankful for.
Friends, I’m not being condescending, truly I’m not. None of these are bad things – they are GOOD things, we should take inventory of our blessings. But for the love of real life, Lord, give us strength on Friday the 24th when the nostalgia of family and out of town guest begins to wear off. When the scale and the garbage disposal back up. When the tightening holiday budget taunts us and winds us up inside, and the parking lot is jam packed with God’s most precious horrible drivers.
I pray that long past November the Lord will cause us to recall together these words, “Child, remember, much of your experience is based on your…attitude.” Eye rolls are optional. I pray instead your eyes will be lifted to the Source of your blessings and that your response will be an outpouring of thanks.
Prayer based on Psalm 100:
Lord we will shout joyfully to you. We purpose in our hearts this day to serve you Lord with gladness and delight; to come before your presence with joyful singing. We know and fully recognize with gratitude that you Lord are God; It is You who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]. We are your people and the sheep of Your pasture. We desire to enter Your gates and the day ahead with a song of thanksgiving and praise. We are thankful to You Lord, we bless and praise Your name. For You are good; Your mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting,Your faithfulness [endures] to all generations. Help us to offer you a sweet sacrifice as we choose joy this day. In Jesus name we pray, amen.