22 June 2015

Having A Grateful Heart

I guess we all know someone who is ungrateful. They take what is given to them, and seem to take it all for granted. Never truly satisfied with life, they're often perpetually grumpy, continually beset with troubles and woes; upset with pretty much the entire world for the 'bad things' that happen to them.

And then there's the other extreme. Perhaps these folks may even endure exactly the same troubles and woes - but there is a difference. They always try to greet the world with a smile. They seem to be able to see the silver lining in their particular cloud.

What makes these two types of people so different?

It's not what happens to them - actually, it's how they react to what happens...

Unfortunately, bad things do happen, even to good people. What happens next is all up to us. We all have a choice - from moment to moment - as to how to react.  After a while these choices and our reactions become ingrained, become habitual. But there's good news - even long-standing habits can be broken!

I must admit that I went through a very dark time in my life - I was not in a good place for what I thought was a very long time. Some nasty things happened a few years ago, and I didn't handle it well. Large chunks of my life were filled with bitterness and resentment. The good news is - I got through that - in some sense, I'm still getting through it. It helped me to realise my absolute need to develop a well of gratitude in my life.

Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.
Proverbs 4:23 (CEV)

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

One quotation that I found on the internet I found useful. It said "an apple tree is not an apple tree because there are apples on it. There are apples on the tree because it is an apple tree." Profound. The problem lies within each of us - the heart is the issue. So that feeling of gratitude should come from our heart - literally, we should have a grateful heart.

Developing a grateful heart isn't easy. How can you be grateful, if the circumstances you are terrible? How can you fight large amounts of discouragement, even extremes such as sickness or even death? How can you be grateful 'in all circumstances' as scripture puts it? Surely, that's not possible. At worst, that is delusion, even denial.

Actually, gratitude is developing a positive mindset through which you can filter your experiences. And that, in my experience, is developed out of a personal relationship with Christ. It's only through the help of Jesus that we can win through. If you think that you are without hope, you are. However, I believe - I know - there is always hope. It takes time. I still don't get it right - I'm still fighting against those ingrained habits. But I'm getting there...

Gratitude is:
  • looking at your own life experiences and finding a way to use it to help or support others
  • believing that things can be different and that you can change even if only in a small way.
Gratitude is not:
  • denying that you are suffering, or in pain
  • being grateful for the suffering or pain
Finally, gratitude is a whole lot better than bitterness, which is destructive. Bitterness drives a wedge between ourselves and others, encouraging resentment of them  and "how we perceive their lives to be". Because - actually - other people's lives are never as good as you may think they are...

Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle” ― J.M. Barrie

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)

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