Devotional: Gratitude

Every once in a while, I pull out a gratitude journal at my house and leave it on our kitchen counter. When it’s there, my kids, husband and I will jot down things we are thankful for, from one-word answers to sentence-long thoughts.

Interesting things land on those pages, from “a nice bike repair guy” and “SLEEP” to “NFL draft day” and “coffeecoffeecoffee.” The gratitude journal prompts us to give thanks for the little things – even in the midst of the whirlwind life of two working parents and two teenaged-kids.

The spiritual discipline of gratitude involves regular habits of considering what it is we are grateful for and why, and seeing all things as gifts from God’s hand.

In the Bible, gratitude and anxiety interestingly go hand-in-hand. Particularly in the Psalms, we see writers vent about their life circumstances — but then wrap up their psalm in praise to God and His goodness or faithfulness.

We’re nearly halfway through this semester, and so I’m guessing that stress levels are probably high for students.

We fortunately serve a God who loves us in the midst of.  He loves us despite of. He loves us regardless of. He just plain loves us.

A couple of years ago, I learned from one of Malone’s biblical studies professors, Dr. T.C. Ham, that grace is a divine attribute – it’s part of how God defines Himself. What may be the only “creed” repeated in many Old Testament books is this:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”

Consider Moses from the Old Testament, leader of the wayward and idolatrous Hebrew people. He heard God proclaim these divine attributes as he passed by Moses on the mountain.

The Psalmist, in a song of lament over those who wanted to harm him, yet remembered God’s divine definitions.

The Old Testament leader Nehemiah called the returned Israelite exiles to repentance and reminded them of the God Who had saved them.

The prophet Jonah in his great anger over the city of Ninevah remembered the God He served:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”

Even when we are faced with the difficulty of weighty decision-making; when relationships aren’t going the way we’d hoped; when we can’t figure out how to balance everything in our life – yet we can (we must?) remember and give thanks for our God.

Here are some easy ways to practice gratitude today and remember the God who remains compassionate, gracious and abounding in love no matter what our circumstances:

  • Spend three minutes saying out loud the things you are grateful for.
  • Read a Psalm of praise and perhaps try using it as your own prayer. You could try Psalm 8, 103, or 150.
  • Spend ten minutes writing everything you’re thankful for – try not to stop writing.

If you’d like to know more about gratitude, message me at lleon2@malone.edu or stop by my office in the Barn.  And if your life is too overwhelming and you can’t quite make it to a place of gratitude, I’ll be glad to just listen to you and help you carry your load for a while.

P.S. – if you want to know more about that repeated “creed” in the Old Testament, see Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15, 103:8, and 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; and, Nahum 1:3.  Thanks to Dr. Ham for this information.

 

By Rev. Dr. Linda Leon

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