Written by: Meredith Miller
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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
I find gratitude a lot easier to display when things are going well. I can look around and recognize all that God has blessed me with fairly quickly. However, I have been on a journey with infertility for almost 3 years, and when life is not going well, gratitude can be a major struggle.
When we face trials, no matter what they are, it is not as easy to look around and recognize God’s blessing when all we see is rubble. Experiencing infertility forced me to realize that gratitude isn’t a feeling, it’s an action, and I have control over whether or not I act with gratitude, no matter how hard it may be to get to that place amongst the shattered pieces of my hopes and dreams.
So what does gratitude look like? First, let’s establish what gratitude does NOT look like: to me, the opposite of gratitude is envy. The comparison game is so hard not to play, and when you are battling infertility, it can feel downright impossible not to look at a refrigerator covered in baby shower invitations and birth announcements and not feel envy. But while reading New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, I had some huge revelations about how envy directly contradicts gratitude.
Tripp says that “envy is self-righteous.” When we envy, we think we are good enough to deserve something more than another person. When I looked at all those expecting and new mommies, deep down I thought I deserved it more when the truth is that all that any human on this earth deserves is punishment for our sins. Yet in His grace, God does not give us what we actually deserve. What a conviction of the Holy Spirit!
Tripp also says that “envy is forgetful.” Especially when we are facing struggle, it is so easy to forget that God has already richly blessed us! We’re too worried about pointing out everything He hasn’t given us that we do not see all the things we should be grateful for. Tripp also points out that sometimes the blessing IS the trial, we just can’t see it.
So how do we let go of our envy and start shifting towards gratitude even when life is not going our way? One of the best things I have learned in my own struggles is from Lysa TerKeurst’s book and Bible study It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. - James 1:2-3 (NIV)
When Lysa taught this verse, she emphasized the word “consider.” It doesn’t say we have to “feel” joy when we’re facing trials. We just need to “consider” where we might be able to find it amongst the struggle. Just as Tripp mentioned, the struggle can BE the blessing when the perseverance we gain is used for our good.
Personally, I put this into action by keeping a gratitude journal. I write down at least three things I am grateful for every day - and I do mean EVERY DAY. Not just on good days, but on the messy days too. I even wrote down gratitudes the day I suffered a miscarriage, which believe me, was no easy task. But amidst the loss and grief, I saw my husband who was a rock as I fell apart, the care from friends who offered anything they could, and the support from my mom who helped stand me on my Rock when I couldn’t do it alone.
To follow Paul’s directions in Philippians 4, I take those gratitude lists and turn them into prayers when I feel anxious. Instead of focusing on my worries about what I don’t have, I praise God for what He has blessed me with. This replaces the anxiety and envy I feel with a peace that my God will work all of this out for good. Even when things seem to be absolutely destroyed, we can still look around and find those beacons of joy shining through the rubble. That’s what it truly looks like to have a grateful heart.
1. Where do you see envy taking over your ability to find gratitude in your life?
2. What action steps can you take today to shift your focus towards gratitude instead?
Heavenly Father, forgive us when we let our envy cloud our ability to be grateful for all You have done for us. Thank You for the blessings we’ve experienced, even those we have come by through our struggles. Help us to keep our focus on Your blessings instead of our unmet desires. In Your Son’s Precious Name, Amen.
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