Being Thankful In Spite of Grumpiness
Just ask my husband. I DO get grumpy. It runs in my family. Mom has told me that some (unnamed) relatives lived grumpy lives, and they let everyone else know it by complaining and by their negative comments about lifestyle, dress, habits of others, and just by generally possessing a sour perspective on life. Mom usually justified the grumpiness by adding a comment like, "She had a hard life."
Please note, these persons in my ancestral line/family are no longer living. I'm not sharing about their struggles to judge: simply to understand and grow in life's journey.
I think their grumpiness was due in a great measure to a religious outlook. Religion tends to see God as a harsh taskmaster: as the God of the Old Testament who is angry and wrathful against sin. As the God who is distant and disapproving. So when difficulties came along, my relatives' first reactions were to fall into the pattern of responding in the same way that they perceived God: as disapproving and angry (grumpy is a mild form of anger or sulking); as allowing their suffering, but doing nothing about it.
But if we KNOW by personal experience that God is love, we'll be able to act and respond from a place of security and peace. The converse is true too: in the areas of our lives where we doubt God's love, we'll respond in fear or anger or mistrust or...grumpiness.
My own grumpiness shows up mostly when something has blocked my forward progress in things like, health, being technologically challenged, or in any other form of delayed response to a need. Usually it's when the answer to a need or prayer is delayed, and I begin to feel insecure in God's affection. I start to doubt, which leads to a case of the grumpies.
If you're like one of my friends who is always sincerely grateful—even in tough circumstances—I am in awe of you. Amazed. Challenged.
During a missions trip to Nicaragua in 2009, one of the guys on my mission team shared his testimony of how thankfulness changed his life. He'd struggled with depression and other negative emotions for much of his adult life. And one day in 2006/2007, he picked up "The Practice Of The Presence Of God," a classic book written by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk whose routine daily life was transformed by learning to do the "little things for the love of God."
After reading Brother Lawrence's book Olly decided to begin practicing thankfulness once
every hour. He set an alarm on his watch and for several minutes each hour, he stopped and intentionally gave thanks. At first it wasn't easy, because thankfulness didn't come naturally. But after a passing of time (I spoke to him three years after he began his "holy experiment") Olly's heart had become so full, he was no longer depressed. Instead, he had discovered emotions like joy and peace as his new 'normal.'
A few months ago a friend suggested I practice thankfulness as part of experiencing an overcoming lifestyle.
Since I'd already made some progress in the journey of thankfulness, I was willing. But I didn't understand what to do when the GRUMPIES came to visit. I felt hypocritical giving thanks when I really felt like complaining & grumbling to God about difficult circumstances! There were times I felt abandoned. Oh, my head knew God was nearby and attentive to my needs. But my heart felt like He was a million miles away, ignoring my cries for help and healing.
As it turns out, it's NOT hypocritical to be thankful when you FEEL grumpy! Because thankfulness is a gateway to being able to see from a heavenly perspective.
We've all heard the scripture from Psalm 100:4: "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise..."
I'm coming to understand that being thankful begins to take my focus off of the natural realm and lifts it up to where it should be: to seeing my circumstances from God's heavenly perspective and not from the place of current need or pain or lack.
Psalms 121:1,2 - I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
As Bob Haslett shared this past week in a teaching, we need to LIFT OUR EYES: raise our vision higher. See from heaven's perspective. I tied that to thoughts I've had about being thankful, and realized when we raise our perspective higher it sets us up to experience the goodness of God!
While Rusty and I were out at Bethel in Redding, California, we heard a wonderful testimony of someone whose face was miraculously healed. She'd been in an accident at age five, and for fifteen years half of her facial features were deformed. She continually prayed for a miracle. One evening at a healing service her face was instantaneously transformed, and she was just beautiful.
The miracle was incredible. But what amazed me as much as the miracle was her perseverance to not give up on God's goodness; to pursue Him because she knew He was a GOOD GOD, a God who heals. She didn't become bitter or hopeless, but continued to seek Him for healing, even during all those years when there was no fulfillment of her request.
I want to grow in thankfulness because I now understand that it changes my perspective. I want to enter into that gateway of experiencing who GOD IS more deeply. And when I don't see His answers, to be thankful anyway. I'm not very far in the walk of thankfulness. In fact, it feels like I'm just starting.
But now that I understand that grumpiness comes out of an earthly viewpoint, I'm willing to practice thankfulness in order to grow a heavenly perspective.
Who wants to join me?