By: Fran Gardener Mora
I was shopping in one of my favorite stores early this week and stumbled upon an ‘80% Off All Fall Decorative Items’ sale – so, I absolutely had to go look around. Right? I found this small orange sign that read ‘Thankful, Grateful, Blessed.’ Very simple, but, somehow, very precise; and from the moment I placed it in my cart I began to think about those three words … and they began to call to me…
So, it’s Thanksgiving time again and we focus on all the usual ways we celebrate this holiday: noticing the needs of people around us, counting and expressing all the things that we’re thankful for, finding opportunities to be generous and share what God has given us with others, etc.
All good things.
But, I found myself thinking about what it means to be thankful and how that differs from being grateful. Thankfulness involves acknowledgement – you’re conscious of some benefit you‘ve received and you express (or feel) appreciation. Scripture mentions ‘thanks’ and ‘thankfulness’ around 280 times; so, you get the point that it’s an expectation and a basic component of a believer’s mindset. Thankfulness is a precious gift from the Father – it holds the power to redirect your thinking from focusing on fear, self-pity, and negativity and turn it around to focusing on the awareness of God’s provision, protection, and His presence. Always a plus.
Gratefulness, on the other hand, is our offering to God. It expresses an appreciation that includes an element of comfort or contentment – even pleasure. And, even though it’s only mentioned about twenty times in scripture, it’s often mentioned in close proximity to the words ‘joy’ and ‘praise.’
Now, maybe you think this is a very small distinction. And maybe it is … but in that tiny space between those two words I found a platform for some long-awaited healing.
You see, there’s been this cache of experiences and unsatisfying relationships in my life that I have not been able to fully resolve emotionally. Yes, God has brought me through all of that. Yes, I’ve brought these things out into the light. Yes, I’ve forgiven all transgressions against me and all of my transgressions. Etc. Etc. But why hasn’t it ever felt completely finished? Why wasn’t forgiveness enough? Where was the true closure?
Gratitude. I found it in being grateful.
I mean, it would be absurd to be thankful for someone hurting me, rejecting me, discouraging me, ignoring me, whatever – but I CAN be grateful for how God used those situations to enrich my life and build my character. I CAN be grateful for how God rescued me from that damaged identity when He called me His daughter.
This year, I’m thankful, first and foremost, for my salvation through the grace of God and by the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for my increasingly intimate relationship with my God and the exciting journey we’ve been on. I’m thankful for my family, my church community, and my friends. I’m thankful for my life and health and all the everyday joys that come with just being who I am and enjoying where God has placed me.
But, in addition, I am grateful for all the difficult and troubled experiences I’ve had in my life because they gave my Father an opportunity to strengthen my character. All those times when suffering brought me to my knees and caused me to call out to God. All those times I had to keep on moving forward in faith and patiently wait for His answer. These experiences also gave me an empathetic heart for those going through the same kinds of struggles and a desire to walk beside them or hold them up.
I am grateful for all the people in my life that didn’t or couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved because they forced me to run into the arms of a Father who wants to be the answer to my every need. Who has loved me perfectly without reservation from the beginning and who will love me through eternity. His love has covered every deficit I have ever known. And from this place of being so completely loved, I can release the last strings I’ve been holding that tie my heart to unanswered questions.
I am grateful for this freedom!
I don’t see myself as a person wearing a sash that contains a multitude of badges that represent all the trials tribulations I’ve survived. I rather see myself as a victorious warrior wearing a breastplate that has been forged in the fire. And – I like the way it feels!
Blessed are the grateful for they will take comfort in the struggles of the journey and will look upon their transgressors through eyes of love.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with lots of love, family, friends, food … and prayers of thankfulness and gratitude!
Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.