The importance of intentional gratitude

(Photo: Unsplash/Simon Maage)

Have you ever read the passage of scripture that outlined the journey the Israelites took on their way to the promised land? The promise God made and fulfilled having freed them from their oppressors, the Egyptians. In my reflections on their murmuring and complaints during the journey I often considered them ungrateful.

Imagine sitting under bondage for hundreds of years, finally being free; freedom that you dreamt about for years, finally coming through. Seeing the hand of God as He delivered you from your oppressors and yet, on the journey complaining that you want to go back to Egypt because what you had there to eat was much better than the freedom you are now experiencing.

What heights of ungratefulness, wouldn't you say?

I recently found myself in a similar position and immediately remembered the Israelites. No, I wasn't in bondage, but I had been dreaming of a better opportunity.

The opportunity did come, and I saw the hand of the Lord all over it. God had definitely orchestrated this opportunity and it was better for me and my family.

Just like the Israelites

It is so easy to forget the feelings we had when we were once in a situation we wanted to be free from and we become even more forgetful when we are faced with situations that are not completely to our liking, despite them being a better position than we once were in.

This is what I believe makes us similar to the complaining Israelites who were on their way to the promised land.

"Then the whole community of Israelites began complaining again. They complained to Moses and Aaron in the desert. They said, "It would have been better if the Lord had just killed us in the land of Egypt. At least there we had plenty to eat. We had all the food we needed. But now you have brought us out here into this desert to make us all die from hunger" Exodus chapter 16 verses 2 and 3).

It is second nature to complain and identify what isn't going well. And more often than not, that is what happens to many of us. I must admit that I found myself in this trap and immediately had to rebuke the thoughts and repent.

Develop godly mental habits

With so many things in life, not working in the manner we sometimes predict, disappointment will loom and depression may set in. More important to note is that God's plans for us are not always straightforward and do not always unfold in the manner in which we expect. We must therefore be intentional about being grateful.

You may be asking how. There are three habits that I have adopted that have proved helpful. Although sometimes I still find myself complaining, I have found that these habits have helped limit my complaints.

One, remember the things God has done for you. Two, keep a gratitude journal and, three, make a conscious decision not to complain - even if you have a good reason.

Intentional gratitude

Remember what God has already done. If God has done it before, what can stop Him from doing it again?

The more we focus on what God has brought us through, and how He has provided, the more thanksgiving will flow from our lips. The Israelites were encouraged to do this in Deuteronomy chapter 5 verse 15b, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm."

Keep a gratitude journal. For about three years I have kept a journal where each day I intentionally review my day and find at least one thing to give thanks for. What this does is to programme the mind to dig beneath the layers of everything that hasn't gone well, and find that one thing that did.

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 18 sums up this point when it says, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Lastly, and most importantly, we must make a decision NOT to complain. When has complaining ever made a dream come faster or granted us our heart's desires? In making this decision, we intentionally choose gratitude which Paul encourages in Philippians chapter 2 verse 14, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing."

Be alert! Be sober. Be intentional about gratitude.

Republished from Christian Today UK.