Living with Grateful Hearts during the Good Times in our Lives

What does it mean to have a grateful heart? We might say something like: “Be sure you always remember to start off your time of prayer saying thank you to God for the good things that He’s already done, before you jump into asking Him to do more stuff for you.” Does this pretty much sum it up for us?

Is there often a gap (or perhaps a grand canyon!) between saying a quick “thank you” to God during our “formal times of prayer” and truly living with a heart of gratitude?

What does it mean to have a heart of gratitude? And, are we able to maintain it during the good times, and the bad times? Which is easier, when things are going well, or when we are in the midst of enduring multiple difficulties, when we are disappointed with God (or, perhaps angry with God); and when God seems silent and doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers?

For most of us, our knee-jerk answer would be to say: “Of course, it’s much easier to be thankful to God when I am happy, and life is flowing along smoothly and is full of good things.”

But is it?

When something bad happens to us or to someone we love, is it easy to ask: “God, why did You allow this to happen to me?” “I, (or my friend, or my spouse, or my child) didn’t deserve this!

After all, we love God, tithe our money, serve in the church, give to the poor, and read our Bibles every day. We’ve kept our side of the bargain, God needs to keep His side of the bargain and keep us safe and healthy and keep our lives running smoothly.

So, when we are safe and healthy and things are running smoothly, we don’t think to say thank you, because that is just what we expect. We think we deserve a life like that.

I would like to humbly suggest that, even though many of us perhaps are unaware of it, this line of thinking is very common.

But, when we think this way, it’s very difficult to truly be grateful to God for His mercy and grace during the good times in our lives.

However, when we can truly see (with the eyes of our hearts) the depth of God’s love, and that all we have is because of God’s grace, NOT because we deserve it, then we will be filled with authentic gratitude. And, authentic gratitude will change our hearts.

God’s Strength in the Midst of our Weakness

Questions to ponder:
Have we ever had a time when we felt inadequate for a task God was calling us to do?
Were our feelings of inadequacy a bad thing or a good thing?
Could it have been that God specifically chose us for that task precisely because we felt inadequate?
What is it that draws us to follow (or causes us to shrink from following) God’s leading when we feel woefully inadequate?

Review the story of Moses and his encounter with God at the desert bush that was engulfed with flames but did not burn up (Exodus 3-4). Moses felt inadequate to return to Egypt, confront Pharaoh, and tell him that he (Moses) was going to lead his (Pharaoh’s) entire work force of 600,000 men with their families and all of their belongings right out of Egypt!.

Moses voiced four objections:
“Who am I?! I’m a nobody! Find someone else to go.”
“My own people are never going to believe that you appeared to me like this in a burning bush and told me to travel back to Egypt.”
“I’m not good with words. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
“God, just send someone else!”

What objections do we raise for why we just can’t possibly do what God is calling us to do?
Yes, we are inadequate and feel weak but God looks for people like that so that we will rely on His strength and not our own.

God told the apostle Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Paul then responded, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work though me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:6-10, NLT).

In his book, When Light Pierced the Darkness, Richard E. Hershind said, “Fear disables the gifts within us, causes us to back off and wait for another day.”

Let’s not let that happen to us in 2022. May we, in God’s strength, say yes to Him and follow Him into the new venture to which He is calling us.


The word “habit” often has a negative connotation. This word, in most cases, turns our minds to those unwanted aspects of our lives that we want to change. Sometimes those habits have become so entrenched that we label them as addictions.

At other times, the word “habit” may bring to mind something good in our lives that because we’ve repeated it so often we no longer give it the attention it deserves. We say it has become “rote” and is therefore no longer meaningful. This is another way in which we view habits in a negative light. Some churches celebrate communion only once or twice a year so that it does not become meaningless through regular usage. These churches look down on churches who offer the Lord’s Supper every week stating: “It loses its meaning when you do it week after week.”

If we stop to ponder this dilemma, we can begin to appreciate that much of what we do we do out of habit. Yes, doing something often and consistently can, if we are not careful, become mindless, mechanical, and meaningless. But that need not be the case. It is all a matter of our heart and our desires, values, and priorities.

Will we shy away from developing a new rhythm of meeting alone with God several times a day because we are concerned that it will just become a “habit” and soon degenerate into a meaningless, dry time?

I pray that this will not become our concern but that, instead, as part of this new journey we are taking, our hearts will be drawn ever closer to God so that we will look forward to each and every time we spend alone with God as we develop this into a new, joyous, and meaningful habit.

Trusting God

I was reading from the book of Exodus this morning in my devotional time and once again I was struck by this well-known story of God’s miraculous intervention. He freed the Israelites from slavery and parted the Red Sea so they could walk across on dry ground.

While they were hemmed in by the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army bearing down on them from behind, the people were terrified, cried out to God, then angrily confronted Moses telling him they would have preferred to have remained as slaves rather than to be killed now in the desert.

Moses answered them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (13:14)

Wow! Those are the words I so often would like to hear during my times of confusion and desperation.

“And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him.” (14:31)

But, unfortunately, that fear of God and trust in Him would be short-lived.

They (and I) want a miracle every day–perhaps every hour–to keep us fearing and believing. If God can miraculously intervene with that intensity, why doesn’t He do it all the time? Why does He so often “appear” to remain silent, “appear” to leave me “high and dry,” and “appear” to leave me to figure it out on my own? (I imagine, in the wake of Hurricane Ida, some of our fellow believers in New Orleans are wondering this right now.)

But He is God and I am not. With crystal clear vision, He sees everything through the lens of eternity. My “eternity lens” is usually heavily smudged and blurry.

If I remember this, I can rest in Him and can continue to believe and fear God even in the difficult times in my life.


Frederick Buechner said:
“We all have such moments to point to [holy moments of grace], but how easily they get lost in the random clutter and busyness of things.”

I know we all “know” this, but we so easily forget.
God does wonderful things in our lives—sometimes they are outright miracles—but in the busyness of our lives, with their daily frustrations, irritations, problems, and fears, we lose sight that God is with us and is a wise, good, faithful and loving Shepherd.

“The Lord is my Shepherd” is not just something to quote during times of sorrow, or a phrase to add to a greeting card to somehow “help make us feel better.” God, as our Shepherd, is a metaphor that runs through both the Old Testament as well as the New and is meant to help open the eyes of our hearts to see one aspect of who God is and how much he loves us and will guide us no matter what may be happening in our lives right now.

As we remember all the evidences of His love from the past, it can help turn our hearts back to gratitude and trust, and it can help us rest in our Good Shepherd who wants, right in the midst of our difficulties, to take us to quiet waters and green pastures.

Scripture Reading

It has frequently been said that our reading of Scripture should not be for information but for transformation. However, we so easily lose sight of this.

As we read God’s Word, we often say to ourselves, “Oh, I didn’t know that” or, “That’s a good reminder” or, “Hmmm, that’s interesting” or, “I have no idea what that even means” or, …

But our lives will never change if our brains are merely containers for intellectual content and our purpose in reading is merely to fill them.

James K. A. Smith said,
“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into our mind; he is after nothing less than our wants, our loves, our longings. His ‘teaching’ doesn’t just touch the calm, cool, collected space of reflection and contemplation; he is a teacher who invades the heated, passionate regions of the heart.”

William B. Yeats once said,
“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

As we read, study, ponder, and pray, does it all light a fire in our hearts that then changes our desires, longings, priorities, and values? Or does it merely fill our information bucket an inch or two higher?


All of us would prefer to avoid times of suffering. On the surface that is an obvious statement, but as we look back at a time of suffering in our lives and contemplate all God accomplished in our lives in the midst of our pain and confusion, suddenly the line between “something to avoid” and “something to accept” becomes blurred.

God can use our periods of deep distress to mature and grow us if we allow Him to focus our eyes past the immediate pain to see our circumstances in the light of eternity.

Henri Nouwen said it so well. “When we learn to move through suffering, rather than avoid it, then we greet it differently. We become willing to let it teach us. We even begin to see how God can use it for some larger end. Suffering becomes something other than a nuisance or curse to be evaded at all costs, but a way into deeper fulfillment. Ultimately mourning means facing what wounds us in the presence of One who can heal.”

Painful Experiences

Mark Twain once said, “He who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

As we read that statement, we smile because it vividly paints a picture of the consequences that result from that ill-conceived decision. We also smile because we can so easily apply this maxim to our latest painful experience that we wished we could have avoided. However, as we look back at it, we must admit that the lessons we learned could only have been grasped through personal involvement.

It would be wise to ask ourselves if painful experiences are always negative or if happy experiences are always positive. We want our lives to flow smoothly without any “flat tires” along the roadway of life but, when we view the big picture of our lives, is this always best for us?

Brennan Manning gave poignant perspective to this when he said, “The road I’ve traveled these last thirty-eight years is pockmarked by disastrous victories and magnificent defeats, soul-diminishing successes and life-enhancing failures.”

Perhaps some of our joyous celebrations shrink our hearts while some of our pain and suffering generate heart growth.

Food for thought.

Christ is Our Life

In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning said: “The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation. He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails. He is our life, the most real fact about us. He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.”

It is easy to go through life viewing our relationship with Christ as just another responsibility to maintain. Our list may include our job, our family, our gardening or house repair projects, time set aside for entertainment … and our “spiritual duties.” We reason that as long as we read the Bible now and then, pray, give to the poor, and attend Sunday morning church services Christ is pleased with us.

However, when we say “yes” to His gift of salvation He lives in us and infiltrates every aspect of our lives. He is not an item on our “to-do list.” He is with us and in us wherever we go and whatever we do. Yes, of course there are things we need to do to maintain our relationship with Him, but we do them out of love, not duty.

How am I to know God?

In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen said:
“The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by God?’ and, finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?’”

After quickly reading this, we may just write off his comments as a “matter of semantics.” But when we sit quietly and let it soak in, then open our heart eyes to see, we can begin to understand the significant difference in perspective this makes in our journey toward intimacy with God. Like Adam and Eve, are there ways in which we are attempting to hide from God?

Take some time and ponder.