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Choosing Gratitude

Posted by Becca Risley on Nov 22, 2020 8:14:00 AM

being thankful

Every day we have a choice. We choose to be thankful or to complain. What type of person do you want to be?

In Luke 17, ten lepers begged Jesus to heal them. Jesus heard their cries and healed them, but only one of them came back to say thank you. 

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19 

Why were the nine lepers not thankful? Why am I not thankful?

  • I am not thankful because I feel entitled to good things and an easy life.

Since the text specifically mentions the grateful leper was a Samaritan, it seems logical the other 9 were Israelites. God’s chosen people. Maybe these nine who didn’t return felt like they deserved healing. God picked the Israelites out of all the people of the world to be His people. So when Jesus healed them, instead of being grateful, they said, “Of course, I deserve this!”

Do you do this?? I do! I follow the rules; I get good grades, work hard at school, try to be a good friend, and take good care of my family. I deserve to be treated well. Sometimes when God gives me good things, I don’t even notice because I say, “of course!” I deserve a reward for all my goodness. I cringe to hear myself say these things: me me me!! Do you hear the pride??  A prideful heart puts way more importance on checklists of accomplishments and downplays sin. A prideful heart elevates self and lowers the goodness of God. A prideful heart is not thankful at all.

  • I am not thankful because I focus on what I don’t have instead of what I do.

Think back to the spring: in March, we were all abruptly sent home, and we were stuck there for months! And I complained. I didn’t always complain out loud, but I definitely complained in my heart. I complained about how lonely it was. How sad it was that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. How crazy it was making me that I was with my family all the time. When the shutdown lifted, I moved on to other complaints: We don’t get to do the things we usually do in the summertime. I don’t like wearing a mask - what a pain! I can’t even hug my mom because I don’t want to make her sick. I did not stop to thank God that I was no longer stuck in my house! When I develop a complaining spirit, it doesn’t matter what is happening in my life. I can always find something to complain about.

Even when my problem is “fixed,” I am not grateful. Instead, I complain about something new. I want what I want, not what God gives me. Our culture reinforces this: We are always looking for the next best thing—the next best experience. Contentment is not encouraged at all. Maybe those nine lepers had the same problem: they spent so much time focused on all that was bad in their lives.  When Jesus healed them, gratitude did not even come to mind. Maybe they immediately jumped to all the things they still didn’t have - a house, a job, new clothes. And they did not pause to give thanks to God for the miracle He had given them!

Every day we each have a choice: Am I going to complain about all the things I don’t like about my day? Or am I going to look for ways I am grateful? We don’t wake up one day and become a grateful person. Poof! There is no magic wand. Each day we make choices to be thankful or to complain. And each day, those choices form a pattern. Is the pattern you are forming the one you want?

100 things to be thankful for

This is a picture of a craft my son made in preschool. I’m sure many of us have made a craft like this one, or at least our kids have. It seems easy to think of 5 things we are thankful for! 

In my family, we have a Thanksgiving tradition.  Every year we list 100 ways we are thankful to God. The 1st 50 or 60 are easy! Family, friends, dogs. But 100 is challenging.

The number 100 propels me to look deeper into my life. Yes, I am thankful for my husband, but WHY exactly am I thankful for my husband? Eventually, it forces me to look at frustrating people or circumstances to see if there is something in them to be thankful for. 2020 has brought a series of discouraging situations. We have endured disappointment after disappointment. But are there aspects of the challenges in 2020 to be thankful for? I have a choice: What do I focus on? The hard things? Or the blessings? On myself? Or on the steadfast love of God? 

So here’s my challenge for you: Make a list of 100 things you are thankful for. If you have some fun fall paper to use, it’s even better. Set a specific time to work on it - It will not happen if you are not deliberate! It will take more than 1 minute, but I promise it will be worth it.

2020 has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Full of so many things that are out of our control. But on my list, I have 100+ ways that God has been faithful and good to me personally. I have confidence each of you also has 100+ ways God has been faithful and good to you personally. And that is definitely cause to be thankful. 

"I will bless the Lord at ALL times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!”  Psalms 34: 1-3 

*This blog was adapted from a speech given in Rhetoric School chapel.

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