Today’s post isn’t specifically about joy. However, I think these two things are so closely related that you can’t have joy without this being part of your life.
What is it? It is a heart of GRATITUDE.
In her book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Nancy Leigh DeMoss shares what she calls the Instigators of Ingratitude. I found them so practical that I knew I had to share them with you. If we find ourselves stuck in the habit of something on this list, we can almost guarantee that we will experience very little joy. Here it is in her words:So much of what is wrong in our lives-out of sync, out of sorts, out of harmony- can be traced back to this root of ingratitude. So we must guard our hearts against it at every turn, watching for the telltale signs, feelings, and attitudes that can set it off in us; things such as: Unrealistic Expectations. We can start to expect a lot– from life, from work, from others in general–until no matter what we’re receiving in terms of blessing, it’s never as much as we’re hoping for. Needing God but not always wanting God, we expect others to take the place of God in our lives, depending on them to guide our decisions, to love us continuously and unconditionally, to provide for us emotionally, physically, socially, totally. And when they disappoint us — which inevitably happens–rather than being grateful for God’s unchanging love and His faithfulness in meeting our needs, those unfulfilled expectations easily turn to resentment that poisons our hearts and relationships. Forgetfulness. God warned the Israelites to be careful after they entered the Promised Land, not to forget the One who had rescued them from brutal slavery under the Egyptian taskmasters and had brought them into this good land. (Here she lists several verses to show her point). Forgetfulness and ingratitude go hand in hand. They forgot to thank God for His deliverance, His faithfulness, His provision, His protection, and His miracles on their behalf. We must never forget that “he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We must remember that He has faithfully met our needs and sustained us by His grace. To forget is not only to invite ingratitude but (as God told the ancient Hebrews in Deuteronomy 8:19) to “perish”– to watch a little of us die every day when we could be experiencing abundant life. Entitlement. …When we take simple blessings for granted as if they were owed to us, or conversely, when we start to think that our house, our car, our wardrobe, or our general station in life is beneath what we deserve, ingratitude finds all the oxygen it needs to thrive. One of the unseemly side-effects of all the effort and energy our society has invested in building our individual and collective self-esteem is that our culture is now rife with this super-high level of deservedness. The more affluent we are, the higher our standard of living, it seems, the more demanding and discontented we become. Be careful where you place the bar for what you can and can’t live with or without. The height of that baseline affects just about everything. Comparison. This is more than just keeping score on who has what and being perturbed because we don’t have as much as they do. It is every bit as dangerous and deceptive for us to focus on the many sacrifices we’re making, the hard work we’re performing, the extra hours we’re putting in, comparing our level of labor and commitment with what others are investing. Any time our focus is on ourselves — even if it’s on the good things we’re doing–it keeps us from being grateful for what others are contributing. We lose our appreciation for our spouse, children, friends, and coworkers when we constantly view them through our own shadow. Blindness to God’s Grace. We are debtors. We are the ones who owe. The mercies of God that are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) are not blessings we deserve but graces given by God’s loving hand to fallen creatures, those whom He has redeemed by His good pleasure. To ignore such unmerited favor or consider it God’s obligation to us is to miss out on the vision of His loveliness and glory that will sustain us through life’s battles and keep joy flowing into and out of our heart. Ingratitude steals it all–healthy relationships, humility, contentment, enjoyment, and the sweet walk with Christ that provides our only access to abundant life. *
How’s that for convicting? I see several things on that list that are a daily struggle for me. And yet, because we don’t tend to view these attitudes specifically as sin, we live in them without examination or any work at eradicating them from our life.
But ingratitude is listed with some pretty serious sins in 2 Timothy 3:2–
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Perhaps we had better take this sin a little more seriously! And while we work on it, we will see our joy increase as our ingratitude decreases. How cool is that?
*Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, pages 53-57