Wholly Living

Grasping Gratitude

Thankfulness is a profound display of obedience and honor to His Sovereignty and our complete trust in Him. by Dr. Qiana N. Woodard

We’ve all heard the saying “life is full of choices.” I may even take it a step further and say that life is all about the choices we make. We are blessed with the gift of free will, and it allows us to make thousands of decisions every day. Studies suggest that every adult makes roughly 35,000 decisions per day*. Those choices – some significant and some less significant – all have real, tangible consequences. Let me give you an example.

Every time I go to the grocery store, I must visit the bakery section. I love cakes, pies, donuts, pastries, and the list goes on and on. During yesterday’s grocery store visit, I made my typical stroll through the baked goods section. I managed to leave without putting a single baked good in my cart. I would categorize this decision as a significant because I absolutely love – really, truly love – baked goods! In recent months, I have tried to make healthier choices pertaining to my diet. So, although I wasn’t able to avoid the bakery section altogether, my willpower overrode my cravings and nothing landed in the cart. In terms of choices, this was a huge win for me.

Fortunately, I do not go to the grocery store daily, so this decision-making process is not frequent. However, there are other choices I am faced with every day. Some choices are a little meatier than baked goods, and I don’t always “win” when it comes to them. I am referencing one choice in particular that I must choose to, or to not, make every day. The choice is gratitude.

Without question, I am abundantly blessed. But for some reason, it doesn’t always feel good enough because I don’t have everything I want. I know I could feel truly blessed by God if He could grant me everything that I want. Sound familiar?

Why is it that we tend to focus on what we don’t have, what isn’t going well, and what we’d like to change? Why the perpetual lens of discontentment or this relentless pursuit of a state where all needs are met?

I meet new people all of the time and enjoy engaging in substantive conversations with them. During these encounters, I observe that it’s not just me with this attitude that I am “so close” to contentment. In recent years – wait, who am I kidding – in recent days, I have grappled with my overemphasis and analysis of what I don’t have. And it goes beyond that. I find myself devising plans for how I am going to get those things I lack. I am even bold enough to put deadlines on some of these deficiencies.

Don’t get me wrong, I graciously and intentionally thank God when He answers one of my prayers. Sometimes I compare myself to the sole leper who went back to say, “thanks a bunch, Lord” for the answered request (Luke 17:11-19). But I don’t tend to stay very long in that place of gratitude and contemplation of His goodness. I have so much I want Him to “do” for me, that I just keep chugging away at “our” to-do list.  

As this Thanksgiving approaches, it’s the perfect time to stop and reflect. When was the last time we truly paused to ponder and praise for an answered prayer? Have we truly been giving Him the thanks that He so rightful deserves for considering our sinful selves worthy of a ‘yes’ as often as He has? 

What’s wrong with our thanks? When did it get lazy, dismissive, and presumptive? Has it become tied to what He does rather than who He is? Is our memory so short when it comes to His goodness that we are more like the Israelites post-exodus than the leper? 

When I stop to think about these questions and all that God has done for me, I am both confounded and convicted. If I started a list of the many ways that He has blessed me thus far, I would be writing for days. Wouldn’t you? 

No matter what happens, one of the best choices we can make every day is to demonstrate gratitude. A thankful heart keeps us focused on what God is doing in our lives instead of what we want to achieve or obtain. Thankfulness is a profound display of obedience and honor to His Sovereignty and our complete trust in Him.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to be thankful in all things – good, bad, hard, and don’t have. As Christians, the Scripture provides instructions.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:18

We don’t always need to analyze a situation, overemphasize a lack, or try to fix a problem. We just need to say, “Thank you, Father, for being who You are. I trust You with my whole life.” The more we say that, the more our minds shift towards Him and who He is, and the more our gratitude aligns with His grace and His goodness. Join me in grasping gratitude every day.

*Reference: “35,000 Decisions: The Great Choices of Strategic Leaders”

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