Gratitude. What Exactly Is It?

 
 
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I found myself defining gratitude a bit differently this year. In past seasons of life, I’d always defined it as being thankful. Over time, I came to say it is an attitude – of gratitude. This year, however, I added new bits to the definition. I began embracing deeper elements that only come in trials and great difficulties, the kind that are somehow important to your well-being as you suffer. Of course, you already know there is much to be thankful for. A simple exercise of listing overlooked blessings reminds that the list is endless. Yet, when your heart is hurting deeply and you need healing, compassion, strength, and grace, the “practice of gratitude” becomes something entirely greater than listing blessings. It unearths your very heart.

When you polish a precious gem a bit more in the hard to reach places, when the grime is cleaned around the cuts and mountings, and even on the back side, it just seems to “pop” out and sparkle more. After that kind of cleaning, the gem reflects the light more brilliantly. It is both bright and warm at the same time. So it is when you polish your heart in the hard to reach places – yes, even the back side. God can remove the dingy film from your soul as you live in a sinful world.

Often the only way to find new gratitude gems is to submit to God’s digging in the terrain of your heart. As mounds of earth are moved, you feel upheaval. Keep consenting to God’s digging. The deeper layers of your heart are filled with undiscovered treasures. Who knows how to mine them? God does. You will find parts of you that you never knew existed. The treasure is in the deepest veins of your heart, at the very core. You will be amazed by what God does in your deepest layers that you can’t reach.

Most of all, you will know that God is very present with you. As you practice His presence, His own personal self is knit into your personal self so intimately that you cannot unravel the two of you. This is a most meaningful discovery: gratitude of the greatest kind. Seeing God’s character and heart being formed in your own takes you to a new level of living. Gratitude is realizing that without God, you have nothing. In fact, you cease to be.

Bit by bit you will find glittering joy you didn’t know could be in your heart. You will begin to see the bright, warm glow of His polishing. As the Lord reveals treasures He’s digging out in your depths and as you see yourself being transformed, you will be compelled to meaningful worship.

Those who consent (surrender) to God mining their heart, find eternal treasures they had always hoped for but never dared to believe were inside them. But those who refuse God’s digging will find increasing levels of rebellion and frustration. (For more about consent and refusal, check out my book Celebrate Advent: A Life Response to Emmanuel, Day 25.)

So, my “bits” added to the definition of gratitude this year:

  1. It is enhanced under the pressure of suffering and trials.
  2. It sparkles more with a good cleaning, especially in the hard to reach areas.
  3. It is a process of discovery: God digging for treasure you never knew existed in you.
  4. God is present with you in the center of gratitude, working to knit Himself into your heart.
  5. Gratitude takes you into meaningful worship.
  6. Consent brings reward; refusal brings serious consequences.
  7. “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13)

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