HOW TO HAVE A GRATEFUL HEART

Don’t allow Satan to enter in and fill you with ungratefulness. What can we do to have a grateful heart?

The last day of school; a bittersweet time as some anxiously await summer vacation and others yearn for more time with friends and the stability of a school routine.  I sit in my rocking chair surrounded by sweet eight-year-old faces, opening the cards and gifts they bring me. The best gifts I receive are not the gift cards, flowers, or candy, but the words written in homemade cards or letters from parents. They state how grateful they are for loving and teaching their child. Hearts filled with gratefulness.

But not everyone. This year proved to be a challenging one.  The energy required for a few left me feeling exhausted at the end of each day.  These are the students and parents that I yearn to receive a thank-you from. A small note or email with a sincere thank-you or recognition of appreciation.

Is this how God feels when we are ungrateful or don’t take the time to express our gratitude for the blessings He has showered on us?  Luke 17:12-19 tells the story of ten lepers that asked Jesus to cleanse and heal them. Out of the ten, only one turned back and glorified and thanked God for his healing.  Only one. How many times have we been like the nine lepers? 

Ungratefulness is a sin, and it comes from Satan. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 states, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  Don’t allow Satan to enter in and fill you with ungratefulness.

What can we do to have a grateful heart? Remember to thank God daily.  Psalm 92:1 reminds us that, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and sing praises.” Remember to say please and thank-you often to others. The mental health benefits of showing gratitude are encouraging.  Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression can be decreased when we show gratitude. Finally, don’t lose sight of God’s goodness. The Israelites were brought into the Promised Land after 40 years of bondage and they still questioned God’s provision. They even expressed a desire to go back to Egypt into slavery. In times of tribulation, look to see how God got you to where you are in life and give Him praise.  

The love I have given every student over the last 25 years is deep, but it doesn’t begin to compare to the love that God has for His children. He longs for us to recognize our ingratitude and repent. Henry Adams stated, “A teacher affects eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.” My influence on the lives of the most challenging students may not be noticed yet, but God is in control.  He has the power to change anyone’s ungrateful heart, even mine.

Click for podcast: “What does the Bible say about thankfulness and gratitude?”

THE RECIPE BOX

I began to question my purpose.  How was I supposed to continue educating these little ones, giving them the love, attention, and care they deserved when my whole world was turned upside down?

Sunday was a good day to make some soup.  The pitter patter of rain on the roof, the gray gloomy clouds darkening the sky, and the cooler temperature made me crave a delicious meal of homemade soup and bread.  I reached for my old-school recipe collection, ready to search for the spinach tortellini soup given to me by a colleague years ago.  My collection is a hodge-podge mess, housed in an old rectangular tin.  The recipes are haphazardly tucked inside following no structure or organization:  hand-written index cards, computer printed papers, recipe cards neatly written from my wedding shower 30 years ago, and many torn from magazines and newspapers.

SUDDENLY THE SEARCH FOR THE RECIPE DIDN’T MATTER

Then I came across a treasure far more outstanding than the tortellini soup recipe I was searching for.  It was a clipping from My Daily Bread dated Sunday, April 27, 2008 entitled “Following God’s Plan”.  Attached to it was a handwritten note from my mother who died ten years previously.  Suddenly the search for the soup recipe didn’t matter. 

TELLING GOD WHAT HER PLAN WAS

The Daily Bread message was about a high school teacher who taught eight years and wanted to quit her job. She needed the money for her family but felt depleted by the pressures of grading papers, lesson planning, and testing.  Feeling desperate, she took off the day from work to evaluate her career.  As she prayed, she realized that she was trying to follow her own lesson plans for her life instead of God’s plan.  All along, she had been telling God what her plan was, instead of asking Him to help find her purpose. 

CHALLENGES BECAME OPPORTUNITIES

She began changing her prayers from “Help me get out of teaching” to “Help me find your purpose for my life.  If it is to be a teacher, help me to accept it.”  Over time, her attitude toward her job began to improve.  Challenges became opportunities for growth.  Even though many days still brought stress and exhaustion, she had a renewed sense of hope knowing God’s purpose was clear. 

I BEGAN TO QUESTION MY PURPOSE

After my son died two and a half years ago from leukemia, I went back to the classroom teaching second grade.  I began to question my purpose.  How was I supposed to continue educating these little ones, giving them the love, attention, and care they deserved when my whole world was turned upside down?  How was I supposed to compartmentalize my grief so that my children didn’t see this side of their teacher? 

MEANT TO BE SHARED

While I continue to wrestle with these challenges, I know God hears my cries.  Sending me this little reminder tucked inside the recipe box was His way of telling me that He is in control and His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 reads, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Gifts given to us are not meant for us to keep, instead, they are meant to be shared.

GOD’S PURPOSE IS CLEAR

My mom, who had left the note, who was also a former teacher.  She wrote, “Kimmy, I know you were meant to be a teacher and God’s purpose is clear. Peace. Love, Mom.” 

ASK GOD TO HELP YOU

Are you struggling with your job or circumstances in life? Give up trying to make your own plan for your life.  Instead, ask God to help you to know the plan He has for you.  May you find fulfillment in the work that you do, knowing God’s purpose is clear. As the soup simmered on the stove, I thanked God for nourishing my soul with an unexpected message from my dear departed mom.