Because I am the kind of person who has a propensity to think negatively, the Lord has had to teach me—and is still teaching me—to be thankful. He has used my precious husband, the one who knows me better than anyone else, to help me see the error of my ingratitude and encourage me toward a thankful heart.
Recently Melanie, our daughter-in-law, was talking to a young mommy who had several little children. The mommy shared with Melanie that she was discouraged, unhappy, and struggling with her children’s behavior. As the mommy was discussing her problems, Melanie, without first-hand experience as a mother of many young children, didn’t feel qualified to encourage her. She could sympathize in one area, though. The mommy told Melanie she had just experienced a miscarriage over the weekend. In March Melanie lost her first baby, who lived only three days.
Later we found out that Melanie’s conversation with the mommy was the vehicle the Lord used to encourage her heart and change her focus. She said when Melanie told the story of her baby’s birth and death, she realized that she had four healthy children for whom to be thankful. Then she said to herself, “What do you have to be discouraged and unhappy about?” With that, she went to work, with a grateful heart to the Lord, addressing the problems she was having with her children.
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings” is what Philippians 2:14 tells us. Often when I am ungrateful, I am murmuring about something. Then I am being disobedient on two sides—murmuring and not being thankful. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I am amazed at how we moms will become discouraged by our children’s lack of obedience, and yet not recognize in ourselves our bent toward disobedience to the Lord Jesus. If we don’t obey the Lord in something as simple as being thankful, how can we expect obedience from our children?
When I go to bed at night exhausted from the day’s work, I can think two types of thoughts. If I am focusing on my workload, being tired, children’s training issues, and how unhappy all that makes me feel, then I am murmuring and being ungrateful. However, if I fall asleep thanking the Lord Jesus for my warm bed, the children He has given me, the husband who provides for us, and the home we live in, then I am choosing the path of obedience.
I can tell you from personal experience that those negative thoughts lead to unhappiness and depression. They do not accomplish anything positive but rather keep me in a state of turmoil and unrest. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” If a child has been having a bad attitude, I am to pray about it with a thankful heart for that child and for the opportunities the Lord Jesus gives me every day to help him learn godly responses. The result of being thankful? A peaceful heart!
Our neighbor has a little dog named Pepper who is the embodiment of gratitude. She is grateful for any kind word or friendly pat a passerby has to offer and lets the person know by furiously wagging her tail as she races up and down the fence. Because of the way Pepper visibly expresses her gratitude, those who walk by Pepper’s yard often stop to visit with her. That is the kind of thankful heart I want to have—one that is so obvious that it makes my family want to be around me.
I recently glanced through the Samaritan’s Purse’s Christmas catalog detailing the areas of giving that are available and needed in impoverished third-world nations. How ungrateful I am if I complain about anything in my life when I am blessed with plenty of food, a safe house, clothing, medical care, and freedom to worship. I expect women in those countries would be aghast if they knew what we murmured about and were ungrateful for.
When I serve my children a meal, I want them to be thankful for what they have to eat, even if it isn’t their favorite. However, I am their example. Have I been grateful in the daily situations in which they observe me? Am I quick to express unhappiness or thankfulness? I can’t expect a higher level of gratitude from them than I have myself.
I desire to have thankfulness flow from my heart as my first response. I don’t want for Steve to have to remind me that I am not thankful, although I certainly need him to when I have failed. I believe the starting point is choosing to have my mind dwelling on that for which I am grateful. I also need to recognize and confess my murmuring and ingratitude as sin rather than excusing or justifying it. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
I want to challenge you to observe yourself—thoughts and words. Are you a grateful wife? Do you think thankful thoughts about your husband, and then do you express them to him? Even if your husband isn’t saved, there will be things for which you can be grateful. Are you a grateful mom? Do you think thankful thoughts about your children, and then do you express those thoughts to them? Finally, are you a grateful Christian? Do you think thankful thoughts about your Savior, and then do you express them to Him? How much a smile and thankful words do not only for my heart but also for those around me. May we be women who choose to be grateful.