A Grateful Heart

A Grateful Heart

Seeing God in Everything

by Mandy Saeler | November 2, 2018

Oh, taste & see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! 
Psalm 34:8

It was a warm spring evening when I saw her standing on the corner of a busy intersection. The corners of her mouth were weighted with weariness and her gaze seemed magnetically pulled towards the ground. Her messy blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, oversized clothes hung on her frame, and she held a brown cardboard sign. She looked miserable. 

No, this isn’t a story of heroic, compassionate action on my part — in fact, I didn’t know what to do and had only mere moments to contemplate this young woman’s situation. But in the midst of living out my own life, here I was, passing through an intersection where hopelessness glinted in a young woman’s eyes. What I didn’t expect was the way that God would divinely intersect my life on that warm spring night, ultimately revealing my need for deeper gratitude. 

In the months leading up to this point, life had been very full of ministry work by day and refinishing my new home into the wee hours of the night. Muscles that I didn't even know I had were sore, my hands were dry and calloused, and I was sporting “home renovator’s highlights” — paint streaks in my hair. When the time finally came to transition into my new home, I was caught off-guard by the pace of life that now felt even faster, the budget that didn’t flex to make my home beautiful overnight, and the physical discomfort of peeling myself up off an air mattress for weeks-turned-to-months. I felt as though I was in a blur and my heart was grasping at the air to gain perspective, while temporary worries, cares, and concerns quietly crept over my heart like fog. How I am going to make this place a home? What about my tight budget? Am I going to sleep on this air mattress forever? This whole experience is different than I had imagined…

God came to my rescue at the intersection where a young woman held a sign. Not through preventing the sun from setting so I’d have more time to get everything done. Not through an oversized wad of cash being dropped into my pocket so I could establish my dream home overnight. And not through a lush, therapeutic grade mattress to take the place of my camping-style air mattress. Instead, it was through a simple glance towards a sad woman who did not know the hope found in Christ. My fretting came to a halt as I realized the shamefulness of my thoughts. I am a child of God — Who has given everything for me and to me — how could I betray Him with such faithlessness? My reeling mind was reawakened to the reality of who my God truly was — if only I would embrace it.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1) No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Ps. 84:11-12) Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. (Ps. 34:8-10)

As I repented of my distraction, recognized the changeless nature of my God, and remembered His faithful leading through the past season — gratitude began to pour forth from my heart. Thankfulness for who my God was, His faithfulness to me, and His goodness in giving me what I had and withholding what I didn't. My worries and concerns melted, praise to God welled up, and the fog over my heart began to clear as my perspective was renewed by His truth. Instead of hopelessness threatening to overshadow the days to come, there was a fireball of hope pushing up over the horizon — excitement and expectation began to grow in my heart for the journey that lay ahead.

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I’d like to share a few simple practices that stoke the embers of gratitude in my own heart — and can inspire you towards gratitude as well — regardless of the situations or circumstances you and I find ourselves in. As we look at Scripture, we will discover that gratitude is not based on our feelings or circumstances — but upon the faithful, eternal character of God. I hope that these practical truths will not just encourage you, but will change your daily life, as they continue to change mine. There is unending blessing to be found as we train our hearts to hold a heavenward gaze — and I’m so excited for each of us to grapple with gratitude at a deeper level and discover more of the richness of life lived together with our God! Let’s get started!

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Practice No. 1: Know God and Know Truth

Know the nature of your God, know what His Word says, and keep these things at the forefront of your mind. Keeping a razor-sharp mind and focus doesn’t come naturally to us as human beings — we are prone to distraction — like the way I was consumed with my own cares on that warm spring evening. The busyness of life baits our attention away from the things of eternal significance, and especially in our modern day, the flurry of being everywhere-at-once via social media is an ever-present, mind-blurring battle for many. The world will not sponsor our progression in this pursuit of knowing our God at a deeper level — we must determine by His grace to set our eyes on things above, run with steadfastness, lay aside appealing distractions, and seek what truly matters the most (see Hebrews 12:1 and Colossians 3:1-2).

Having a personal and intimate knowledge of God, who He is, what He is like, and all that He is to us is of inestimable value. In fact, it’s all that really matters (see John 17:3). Wherever we are at in our spiritual walk, there is always more that we can learn of Him. Romans 11:33 (NASB) says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” His ways are unfathomable — they are past finding out! If we are to know who God truly is, we must learn of Him by His own revelation through His Word. Wherever you are today — progress from that point and go deeper in knowing your God and understanding His truth. If we are to know our matchless God on this side of eternity, we had better get a start on it!

When we know our God, walk closely with Him, and are faithful to saturate our minds in truth, our hearts are continually stirred to amazement, humility, gratitude, clearer understanding, deeper desire, and more. 

Practice No. 2: Remember What He Has Done

To kindle gratitude in your heart, rejoice in your salvation. Remember from where God has brought you, the sin He saved you out of, the newness of life He gave you, and how sweet His grace was to you in the hour you first believed. Remember His works of old as chronicled in His Word. (Read Joshua 4 to gain an understanding of why remembrance/memorials are important.) Call to mind the many times you’ve seen His goodness and faithfulness displayed in your own life and in the lives of those around you. 

Whether the sun is shining and you are in a season of abundance, or you are struggling in a dark fog bank of “hard” in your life — I encourage you to take time to remember. As we take time to remember and meditate on who He is and what He has done for us, our hearts cannot wallow in downcast-ness, self-pity, self-focus, or any shade of darkness. We can only respond in rejoicing, giving thanks, and marveling in the light of His glorious grace. Gratitude is the joyful declaration of God’s children — testifying of who He is and what He has done! 

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. (Ps. 97:12)

Make it Practical: A Look at Scripture

Now comes the time where you get to start flipping the pages in your Bible! Look up the following verses, taking time to meditate on them and explore the verses surrounding them: Psalm 100:4, Psalm 116:17, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 26:7, Psalm 30:4, Psalm 95:2.

As you reflect on these verses, what common root do you see in the acts of gratitude and thanksgiving? 

Here it is: Praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude are intimately rooted in the nature of God and His works of truth. 

From this, when we recognize that praise,  thanksgiving, and gratitude are based on the faithful nature and amazing working of our God, we realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with us — but entirely with who He is. Our participation in the giving of thanks is all that is required and is simple obedience to Scripture. Our responsibility is to truthfully reveal the character and work of God through our lips and lives — and to magnify Him before all who are a witness to our joyful exclamations. 

Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! (Ps. 105:1-3)

Gratitude's Secret

Gratitude leads us to discover hidden treasure in everyday life. As we cultivate a heavenward gaze and practice gratitude, we begin taking steps into a life of joy-filled awareness of God’s presence. As we walk with our Lord in quiet communion — knowing Him more and reflecting on His Word — we begin to see His nature displayed in what He has created, paradigms of truth in everyday life, His radiance reflected in the lives of His people, and touches of heavenly beauty and joy here on earth. 

We see gold-ribboned clouds resting above the mountains at sunset — and recognize His steadfast nature in the faithful sunrise and sunset each day. (See Psalm 19:1-2; Jeremiah 32:17.) We see the Gospel-truth of death unto life as we sow seeds in our gardens. (See John 12:24.) We marvel at the radiance of the countenance of one whom the Son has set free — and the life-transforming work of God in our loved ones. (See Psalm 34:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17.) The simple beauty of rainbows cast by rays of sunlight through the sputtering sprinklers reminds us of His covenant. (See Genesis 9:13.) The hilarious antics of squirrels at play, their bushy tails whipping ecstatically — bring to mind the truth that all things are made for His pleasure and sustained by Him. (See Psalm 104; Job 12:7-10.) The incredible wonder of a life created, sheltered, and knit together in the womb of a mother is a work done by God. (See Psalm 139.) The piercing light of the moon in the dark of night is His faithful witness in the sky. (See Psalm 89:37.)  

We see God’s “fingerprints” all around us (see Romans 1:20), and as we do, our hearts can’t help but swell with gratitude and acknowledge Him in all our ways. As we cultivate a heavenward gaze and a grateful heart, how many simple joys and miraculous beauties we discover wound into the spool of daily life — each one intended to usher us into continual acknowledgment and marveling worship of our God. 

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Your God is longing for you to know Him more — for you to know His faithfulness, His daily mercies, His unchanging goodness. He intends for you to know the full joy that He has for you as you abide in His presence. He would have you to know all that is yours in Him if you would simply put aside your fretfulness, your cares, your worries, your distractions, and your sins. Begin living in obedience — one step, situation, and circumstance at a time — to this simple truth: Give thanks always and for everything; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (see Ephesians 5:20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

In a day when gratitude has become a cliché notion that inspires a mental picture of cornucopias overflowing with gourds and grapes, may we recognize the simplicity of bearing a heart of gratitude that continually says, “Thank you, Lord.” May we not postpone our thanksgiving until ideal days of sunshine and roses, or robust paychecks and five-star mattresses. May we not require being shaken and awakened by the sad, hopeless glint in the eyes of a young woman at an intersection. Instead, may we live each day with grateful hearts in acknowledgment of our God.  And may we cherish the amazing gift of life lived together with Him, moment by moment.