Becoming Grateful: Thanking God in All Situations
I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now.
I absolutely love this quote!
When we’re single it can become easy to focus on what we don’t have. A husband, a family, a home. These things are all good desires, but dwelling on the things we’re hoping for can cause us to miss the things that are going on right now. I talked about this in a previous blog post Seasons of Waiting. The basic point is that there will always be something that we are waiting on or hoping for.
Learning to be grateful in all situations is skill that will benefit you throughout your life even after you meet the man you’ve been hoping for and have those kids you’ve been dreaming of!
Becoming discontent and always looking for the next stage in life is an age old problem. It started long before Jesus was born. One example is the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness.
God had just rescued the Israelites from years of oppression and slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. God had sent plagues of frogs, lice, boils, locusts and fire on the Egyptians that were so severe Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelite people go (Exodus 7-12). After the people fled from Egypt, they almost immediately forgot all that God had done! They came to the Red Sea and began to complain. They should’ve been celebrating and praising God for his faithfulness and goodness, but instead they were worried about the next steps.
Exodus 14:11-12 says, “They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” So dramatic! The people were afraid because Pharaoh and his armies were coming after them and they already wanted to go back to their captivity! What short memories!
They had spent years pleading with God to free them from their captivity and they were finally free. It’s like they instantly forgot all that God had done for them and all the prayers that had been answered. Once they were free, they immediately were anxious for the next phase, the next step. Doesn’t that sound like us sometimes?
God parted the waters so that they could walk through on dry land and get away from Pharaoh and his army once and for all (Exodus 14). However, they didn’t remember this miracle for very long either. Psalm 106:13-14 says, “But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test.” Wow! Even witnessing the parting of the Red Sea didn’t give the Israelites and unwavering faith in what God was doing.
It’s easy to look at the Israelites and judge them for forgetting God. It seems like we’d remember if we saw a sea get parted or were freed from captivity, but I’m not so sure. There’s so many things in my life that I’ve been tempted to forget and not be grateful for all that God had done. Several years ago, I was absolutely miserable in my job. I prayed and prayed and called out to God asking for a career change. Finally, I was able to switch to a job that was a much better fit for me.
I was thrilled and so grateful! For like a week. Then it seemed that life went back to normal. I wasn’t stressed about work anymore, but I still felt like I didn’t have many friends, I was still sick of being single and I still felt like God had somehow forgotten me. So really I don’t have any better memory than the Israelites do!
So how do I stay focused on the things God has done and stay grateful? Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple tips for you!
Journal – I’ve kept a journal since I was in high school! I don’t write in it every day, but I try to write in it often enough so that I can be sure to capture all the really important things. These journals have been such a comfort to me over the years. It’s amazing to look back and see how the things you were stressing about years ago have worked themselves out. Sometimes things didn’t go how I wanted them to at all, but when I re-read the situation with a couple years of perspective, I could see how everything worked together for good!
Pray – Another thing I have found encouraging is writing down prayer requests. This doesn’t take as long as journaling, but it’s still great to have a record of the ways God has worked. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just a note in your phone, but I love writing down my prayer requests and the requests of others I’m close to and seeing how God is working.
Read – Reading scripture is another way to stay focused on all the things that God has done. There are so many stories in scripture of God providing and working in people’s lives in amazing ways. Reading and re-reading these sections of scripture will encourage us to keep on trusting that God is working and being grateful in all circumstances! If you’re not sure where to start, I put together a 5 day Bible study on one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ruth. Click here to download it!
I hope that these things help you to stay focused on what God has done for you and for others! It’s so easy to get distracted and become discontent with our current situation or circumstances. Staying focused on God and the things he has done will help us to be grateful and joyful in our current season rather than always longing for what’s next!