There’s a buzzword used today to describe what takes place when a person adjusts the thought patterns that have become ingrained into his or her emotional make-up. It’s called: “attitudinal change.” It’s a fancy way to say that new behaviors start with new mindsets. The pathway to personal transformation requires a change in perspective.
I’d like to coin a new word for those who may be deficient in the gratitude department (which includes all of us from time to time). I’m calling for “gratitudinal change.” That’s because I want you to live in the fullness of your relationship with God, not hindered and hamstrung and holding Him at arm’s length, but experiencing Him richly. Feeling at home in His presence.
I don’t want you to be destroyed by the inevitable downturns of life—with no answer for the darts of unfair, unpleasant circumstances—a walking bull’s-eye, just waiting for the next arrow to be shot in your direction. I want you to find the God-given reserve to stand strong in the midst of confusing, condemning onslaughts of opposition. I want your head up, lifted by the empowering Spirit of God within you, even when everything else within you is calling for a week in bed with the lights out and the blinds drawn.
I want your story to be rewritten into a tale of God’s grace, one that He uses to help you be an effective minister of His hope and healing to those who are walking the same kind of path. I want you to be so available to His Spirit’s leading, so aware of others’ needs, and so willing to be open and genuine, that God takes the things Satan meant for evil and transforms them into things of value.
No one expects you to be superhuman. And certainly, no one should ever make you feel as though gaining victory over your hardships requires acting like they don’t exist, as if refusing to speak about them or make reference to them will cut off their blood supply. These losses or failures or injustices done against you are real. They are not dependent on your acknowledgment of them in order to breathe and attack. But just as certainly, they are no match for the greater plans and purposes of God. And when He is given room to work His will within you, He can be the One who puts the “supernatural” into your responses and reactions.
That’s why no matter who you are, where you’ve been, or what’s happened to you along the way, you can be changed into a person who’s known and marked by gratitude. God can do it in you.
Are you ready?
In appealing for gratitudinal change, I am not calling you to something that’s trivial and inconsequential, much less something that’s contrived or insincere. When gratitude becomes your default setting, life changes. As I’ve said earlier, the whole world looks different when you see it through gratitude-colored glasses. A problem that used to bury you now takes its rightful place behind twenty other blessings that are bigger than it’ll ever be. A recurring issue that once brought out a whole range of pent-up emotions now only produces a new excuse for praising God with greater fervor than ever, knowing He is more than true and trustworthy.
Gratitude changes things.
But first, you need to tell God you’re going there. Tell Him you’re going to begin letting your salvation be more than a once-upon-a-time event, a daily cause for celebration and wonder.
Tell Him you’re going to make each day a fresh opportunity to watch for His blessings in things both great and small—from the ultimate, awesome gift of His saving grace, to the privilege of having a healthy family, to the pleasure of not having one of those little painful sores you can sometimes get in your mouth. (Has it occurred to you to be grateful for that recently?)
Tell Him you’re going to offer up to Him every situation and circumstance in your life, even the ones that are still sensitive to the touch, the ones that make absolutely no sense, and the ones you just really don’t understand why you have to put up with right now. No matter how bad it gets, no matter what someone says to you, no matter how long it goes on or where it might lead, you will drop the full weight of it at His feet every night, be thankful for His strength that brought you through the day, and wait for His mercies that will be new in the morning (even though you may start needing them again at 12:01 a.m.)!
Arguably the most affluent, materially blessed people in the history of the world, we have become angry, bitter, proud, and ungrateful. We have gotten this false sense of entitlement and the entirely unbiblical idea that God owes us ease and luxury or at least the chance to go for two weeks without having to deal with this one particular matter that is so difficult or discouraging. We can hardly conceive of our spiritual forebears (and brothers and sisters around the world in our own lifetime) who have gone to their martyrdom singing hymns of praise to God.
Listen, dear friend, God loves you, His promises are sure, and your heavenly destiny is settled forever if you’ve trusted Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior. But some of the holy work we need done in us and through us can only come through the valley of shadow and suffering. Are you going to be resistant to that? Or are you going to be clay in His hands, knowing that He is intent on shaping you into the image of Christ and wants to use your life for something far bigger than your own comfort, convenience, and pleasure? He wants your life to be part of a grand, eternal redemptive picture that portrays the wonder of His saving grace. One day that picture will be complete and together we will magnify Him forever.
In the meantime, we can go surrendered and willingly, trusting God and His higher ways, or we can go kicking and screaming. The choice is ours.
I want us all to go forward in ways that are pleasing to Him, ways that place us in the center of His great will and plan. So I say to you, and I say to myself: let’s go humbly, in faith, and on bended knee.
And for our own good and His glory, let’s go gracefully. And gratefully.