It is November! That means we begin doing what we ought to be doing year round; having an attitude of gratitude.
I could tell you a hundred reasons why you should foster more gratitude in your life, from a biblical perspective and a mental health perspective. I could tell you practical ways to be more thankful, and practices you could implement to bring your blessings to the forefront of your mind. I could do all that, but I have something else on my heart this year.
What? What does guilt have to do with gratitude?
Here’s a not-so-secret secret. The enemy hates gratitude. He doesn’t want us to be grateful for anything.
The enemy does not want you living in the will of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
The enemy does not want you to live in peace.
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."
The enemy wants you silent.
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
The enemy wants us to be selfish, stressed, and sad. When we are living that kind of negative life, gratitude is the furthest thing from our minds.
So what does the enemy use as a tool when we begin to clearly see our undeniable blessings and are stepping toward a life of gratitude for all that God has given us? Guilt and fear.
I am an insanely blessed person. I have a supportive husband who is also my best friend. I have found my ministry and calling and am able to pursue God’s work. My kid has many challenges, but I am often reminded of the challenges we DON’T face that we could in our circumstances. We have a home. We have family. We have godly friends who have become family. I have received a testimony of miraculous healing and promises of more to come. God has provided in a way only He can for us to be able to have and do what we have and do.
But I don’t like to talk about it.
Why? Guilty gratitude. When I have something wonderful to be grateful for, I am filled with a fear and feeling of being like the pharisees.
To some who trusted in their own righteousness and viewed others with contempt, He also told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed,a ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the other men—swindlers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and pay tithes of all that I acquire.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance, unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven. Instead, he beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Pride vs. Humility
This is what the enemy whispers in my ear, and I suspect if he says it to me, he has said it to someone else in an effort to silence God’s children.
“You are being proud” “Don’t point that out, you will make them feel bad” “It isn’t fair you have it, so don’t make a big deal about it.” “You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it.” “You sound like you are bragging.” “Must be nice…” “You will make them jealous if they don’t have what you have.” “They won’t hear your heart.”
By the grace of God, I have come to a place where I can recognize the difference between bragging and gratitude.
The pharisee was bragging of his own merits and comparing himself to others. His gaze was strictly horizontal.
The tax collector was not comparing himself to anyone but Christ himself. His gaze was strictly vertical.
I propose a shift.
Rather than guilty gratitude, I am going to embrace gracious gratitude.
Sounds a little redundant, I know.
I will no longer feel guilty for what I am thankful for, because it was not won by my merits. What I am grateful for is a blessing from God that I did not earn. That makes me humbly grateful.
My gratitude gaze will not be horizontal (on my own actions or on the reactions of others).
My gratitude gaze will be vertical, with my eyes only on God, the author and creator, my refuge and my strength, who showers good gifts on His children.
Not by my will, not by my might.
I will brag. I will brag on the mercy of my God. I will boast of His goodness all month and in all months to come.
I will not be silent about what my God has done for me. He is good. All the time. He is good.