Lessons in Thankfulness From Isaiah 55:12-13
12You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
What if I don't feel thankful? What if I don't feel joy and peace? Am I a bad person, or a lackluster Christian? Am I just out of luck, or is there something I can do to change my feelings?
I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to feel joyful and peaceful in the spring I love springtime! It's my favorite season.
And what better description of spring can you find than in Isaiah 55:12-13? New plants growing, hills reverberating with birds bursting into song, blooming trees, and flowers! These are my favorite things about spring—all symbols of new life!
It's so easy for me to give thanks in the spring! I've always thought the Thanksgiving holiday ought to be in the spring.
But I have to confess: at all other times, gratitude doesn't come naturally to me. My mind naturally focuses on the tasks I need to get done, the problems I need to solve, or the flaws I wish I could change. I don't normally bask in joy and peace. I'm too busy.
I must constantly remind myself to enjoy the gifts God has given, breathe a prayer of thanks, and look for the good in situations and in people, including myself. Does thankfulness come easy for you? Or do you work hard to maintain a thankful attitude?
There are three areas I've turned into a habit to remind myself to give thanks. Maybe these ideas will help remind you to be thankful, too.
In this busy world, though we don't want to be ungrateful, it can be hard to make time to give thanks. We can make these three activities as our habits, all of which remind us to be grateful.
1. Worship Songs
Remind yourself of God's good character. I have created a playlist on YouTube, but you can make one wherever you listen to music most. I choose songs that remind me of who God is. Then I listen to them almost first thing every morning while cooking breakfast and then while cleaning my house. These songs remind me of God's faithfulness, graciousness, goodness, holiness, and all the other wonderful qualities for which He is the standard. Listening to these uplifting songs helps me reorient my thought pattern to finding the good and thanking Him for it. Try this and see if this helps you remember to be grateful
2. Prayer Formula
Remind yourself of God's good works and the grace He's given you. When I was young, I was taught the ACTS prayer formula, which is still one of my habits.
A = Adoration. I start off praising God for who He is. Usually, there is a character trait that I need Him to be in a certain situation; I will thank God for being that and for always remaining the same so that I can rely on Him always being that.
C = Confession. If there is any sin or bad attitude in my heart, I will confess it and make it right. Many times, after I have praised God for being a certain characteristic, then I will realize how far I fall short in that area.
For example, If I have praised God for being Faithful, I will be convicted of and need to confess my fickleness. Or if I have praised God for being a loving Father, I will be convicted of and need to confess my coldness towards my children.
Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 John 3:21-23, ESV).
T = Thanksgiving. This is the time that forces me to put away all the bad from my mind, what I would like to complain about, and I must force myself to come up with something to thank God for. I have found that I can always thank Jesus for being Emmanuel, God with us. I can always thank Him for never leaving or forsaking me. I can always thank Him for saving me.
Starting with these big things reminds me that I am blessed; even if Jesus is all I had, I would not be poor spiritually.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV).
Then it's not as hard to give thanks for individual situations, even through the hard ones. Notice that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in everything, not necessarily for everything. We don't have to drum up false gratitude for the tragedies in our life. Living in a broken world, those terrible things weren't supposed to happen in the first place. But they do.
But God can redeem every situation. So there is always a lesson to be learned or a comforting person to lean on, or a word of encouragement from a pastor, teacher, mentor, or friend to give thanks for. There's always something. If we train our minds to look for the good, look for something to be thankful for, we will find it.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, ESV).
S = Supplication. This is asking for things, whether for ourselves or for others (which is intercessory prayer, or petitions). Once we have turned our focus to the holy God, confessed any sin that was between us and Him, hindering our prayers, and looked for the good in the situation we find ourselves in, then we can, according to God's will, ask for whatever we want. That doesn't mean He will always give it to us. Like a good Father, He knows better than we do if what we're asking for is really the best thing for us or for those we're interceding for. But at this point, it should be relatively easy to ask, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NIV).
Remind yourself of God's working in you and how He made you a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Creating something beautiful (or, at least trying to) reminds me that we are made in His image; He is the Creator, and He also made us to create. He gave us all the purpose to glorify Him and shout His praise, showing His beauty to the lost world. How each of us does that best is God's unique masterpiece of you.
Maybe you write poetry, journal, or write fiction or nonfiction to show God's relational nature through language.
Maybe you paint or draw or sculpt to show God's beauty and excellence and perfection through aesthetically pleasing art.
Maybe you color or design or scrapbook to show God's love of order and rightness through arranging.
Maybe you cook to show God's provision through the culinary arts.
Maybe you sing or play an instrument or compose music to show God's unfathomable infinity and other-ness, how He is beyond understanding and description, through an unexplained melody.
Maybe you solve complicated arithmetic problems or solve dilemmas to show God's love for structure and logic and sense through problem-solving.
However you create something, whatever your talent or ability or skill, use it every day or every other day. As often as you can make time, use that talent and thank God not only for gifting you with it but also for giving you the opportunity to use it.
Then share it with someone. Maybe your parents or your spouse or your children or your friends or your neighbor. Maybe it's time to widen your sphere and to share your gift with strangers. Maybe join or start a ministry. Maybe start a blog or start guest posting. Maybe share on social media or send a card to someone you know who needs encouragement or someone the Holy Spirit lays on your heart.
We all have different gifts. We are all different parts of the Body of Christ. The Body couldn't function if we were all hands, or all eyes, or all mouths, or all spleens. :) This also implies that we are using the gifts we have to help the rest of the body.
Find some way to be creative today, share it, and thank God for it.
Conclusion: When you make it a habit to give thanks to the Lord, you will begin to find that “you will live in joy and peace.” Your heart “will burst into song, and [you will] clap [your] hands! Where once there were thorns [in your heart], cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name;they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” And our lives will be a testimony to His goodness and grace.