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My husband and I had a conversation discussing how to teach our son to say sorry. For many reasons, we don’t want to force him to say sorry. Since he was only 2, we decided that an appropriate way to teach him at this age is modeling an attitude of contrition. In the same way, if I want to raise a grateful child who is not entitled, then I must model genuine gratitude.
I can’t force my son to feel sincere gratitude any more than I can force him to feel sorry. Both are internal and connected to the heart. At the end of a long day trying to potty train a toddler, it is easy to feel grateful when he falls asleep! It is hard to feel truly grateful in the midst of a real, messy life. Just as mothers should seek to find their fulfillment in Christ, learning how to be grateful starts with looking to Him.
Cultivating a Heart of Genuine Gratitude: Why is Gratitude Important?
We find purpose in motherhood, by using the mundane as an opportunity for worship. In Colossians 3:17, Paul tells believers to do everything in the name of Jesus. He continues by saying “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Gratitude is important because one of our acts of worship is showing genuine gratitude to the One who deserves all praise.
What does gratitude mean?
Romans 1:21 says,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Gratitude means thankfulness, to be appreciative of something or someone. A sign of an unrepentant heart is one that does not thank God and is not truly grateful for who he is and what he has done. This heart is proud, viewing itself as higher and more important than its own Creator. Genuine gratitude means seeing God in His rightful place as Holy, sovereign Lord of our lives.
Benefits of gratitude
Feeling gratitude toward God leads to a humble heart. When we practice genuine gratitude, elevating God and His works to their rightful position, we also learn to view ourselves rightly. In her book, Humble Roots, Hannah Anderson says,
“Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world…Without His care, without His provision, without His love, we would still be dust.” (Humble Roots, pg 56)
Humility, one of the benefits of gratitude, frees us to rest in Christ alone. Our good deeds cannot save us, so let us give thanks to the only One who can! What a beautiful freedom this is!
Cultivating a Heart of Genuine Gratitude: How to Be More Grateful
In None Like Him, Jenn Wilkin discusses the attributes of God – the characteristics He has revealed about Himself that set Him apart from all of creation. Mama, you need to soak in rich theology like this. If you want to know how to practice gratitude, learn how to be more grateful, you need to set your eyes on God, learn about His wonders, and praise His beautiful name.
Let’s get more practical. How do I show genuine gratitude and give God thanks while changing yet another dirty diaper?
Seeking to Know God
I know I have already spent a lot of time talking about this, but it is key. We can follow a three-step checklist, but, ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the only One who can change your heart. Seek God. Pray. Read the Bible. Read books that contain good, true theology (again, I highly recommend None Like Him). Listen to sermons about the character of God and the truths of the Gospel. Genuine gratitude can only come with a right understanding of who God is.
If you struggle with understanding what it means practically to look to Jesus, be sure to check out the 30 Days of Looking to Jesus Challenge.
Practice Expressing Gratitude and Thanks to Others
What are you thankful for? A roof over your head, your children, financial stability? Whatever it is, tell God how thankful you are for these blessings! In addition, speak in a way that is grateful. Teach your children how to show gratitude by talking about your many blessings in front of them. Tell your husband that you are thankful for him being a hard worker (or whatever characteristics you appreciate). If someone does something meaningful for you, go out of your way to thank them for it.
The Bible clearly shows us how to express gratitude through our speech. Spend time in the Psalms reading the numerous Psalms of Thanksgiving. The Bible also clearly shows us the opposite of genuinely grateful talk.
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4
Make a List of Things You are Truly Grateful For
If you are finding it hard to incorporate grateful speech into your day, start by journaling everything you are thankful for. In your daily gratitude journal, you can list the attributes of God, His promises, and answered prayers. Even if they were hard to learn, are there any life lessons you are thankful for? List your family and friends. Add to this journal as often as possible.
In preparing for this post, I came across a blog with a beautiful 30 days of gratitude chart. Click here to access it, especially if you are struggling with knowing what things you are truly grateful for.
How to Show Gratitude During Trials
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
If life is hard right now, take hope. Feeling gratitude during trials may be hard, but, as believers, we look to a future glory. No matter your earthly afflictions, God is still good and sovereign. We have a future hope for which to be thankful. Rest in these truths. Preach them to yourself and your family. Don’t let this time of trials be wasted, but, instead, show others the Gospel through your genuine gratitude toward your Father.
Resources on Genuine Gratitude
I pray during this season of Thanksgiving, we can all look to the One who truly deserves our thanks and gratitude. If you are looking for ways to show gratitude, be sure to check out these resources.
The Lost Art of Feasting – David Mathis at Desiring God
Thankful Tree Craft Day – Erica Pelzel
The Stubborn Refusal to Give in to Despair (with 30 Days of Gratitude printable) – Jennifer Dukes Lee
How do you express your gratitude and thanksgiving? I would love to hear about any traditions your family has to bring the Gospel into this holiday!