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The Skill of Gratefulness

By Andy McQuitty

Last weekend I mentioned at IBC that gratefulness is a powerful antidote to anger. But it’s not only that, I’m also convinced that gratefulness is also the key to enjoying our lives while we live them.

I wonder if you’ve had the experience of living through an extended, difficult season in your life only to look back on it with fond memories, the tough parts forgotten in the shadow of good things you realize came out of those days?

I surely have. The years Alice and I were raising our three daughters and two sons are a great example. My goodness, there were occasions in those interminable years of diapers and wrecked cars and no money and strollers and car seats that we thought we might not make it. But then ten minutes passed, we turned around and saw only each other and an empty nest full of rich memories. My only regret? That I didn’t recognize and savor the blessings of those days while I was living them!

Maybe the great Apostle Paul was prone to the same blind spot. Listen to his description of a tough season in his life:

    I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Cor 11:23b-28).

Hey, I realize Paul was dealing with way worse problems than dirty diapers and recalcitrant car seats! But still I wonder if he realized that the tribulations he described were happening in tandem with churches being planted on two continents, lives being transformed in several nations, and the world being changed by the gospel? Those were surely hard days for Paul. But holy cannoli! They were fruitful days for Paul too, the likes of which are unparalleled in the history of the world. 

Perhaps Paul did realize that, but if so, his words above don’t show it. I know he ultimately came to see the great blessings in those days of great trials. But maybe when he did, he regretted with me that he didn’t enjoy those blessings as much as he could/should have as they happened. It’s just hard sometimes to see the great in the middle of the hard. Even for Paul. And absolutely for me! What about for you?

The fact is that gratefulness day in and day out in our lives is an arduous faith-exercise predicated on the promises of God. It poses a huge challenge for every one of us—to endure each difficult day not with complaints and frustration, but with thanksgiving and praise for the as yet invisible good that he is doing.

For that, great faith is required to believe that in this difficult now are blessings that I’ll thank God for in the distant future but which I might as well enjoy today by thanking God in the now for blessings yet to come. Why not get double benefit from the riches of God’s grace? I avoid future regret for letting hard times make me oblivious to wonderful days while enjoying God’s blessings in real time.

Now obviously, I have to do that by faith. But when I do, it works. Thanking God for promised blessing in the middle of the hard forces me to search for blessings right there. And when I search, I find. No matter how bad things may be, the multitude of blessings dwarfs any amount or degree of problems that pertain.

The more blessing I identify and count, the more blessings I find. And the more blessings I find, the less angry I become. And the less angry I become, the more joy that I feel. And the more joy that I feel, the more I enjoy my life, right now today, even in the big fat middle of a good season or a bad season or anything in between. Come Join the Fun Everybody!

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