- Catherine Black
5 Easy Ways to Cultivate Thankfulness
Ever opened your pantry and stood there, eyes raking up and down the various boxes, jars, and containers of food and still not finding what you want to eat right then? Ever complained about not having exactly what you want to snack on, right when you want to have it?
Ever tossed and turned in bed because your pillow or your mattress isn’t all that comfortable? Ever complained about needing a better bed so you can sleep better?
Ever looked up at your popcorn ceilings and cringed, thinking how shameful it is to have something so out of vogue, according to HGTV and Pinterest?
Welcome to America.
In this country, having a house full of food still isn’t enough. Having a warm, dry, safe, clean bed isn’t enough. Having a solid house with a roof, floors, central heat and air, and running water isn’t enough.
We’ve been trained to complain. From early childhood, we’ve been given so many choices that we can’t help but complain. Goldfish or whole wheat bread? Sugary yogurt or plain yogurt? We quickly learn to choose the “sweeter” options in life, because we can.
And before long, we think we deserve them.
Cultural View of Gratitude
By the time we’re teenagers, if our parents don’t buy the right snacks, we grumble. How could we possibly run out of peanut butter? I wanted some right now.
By the time we’re adults and we can fill our houses with whatever we choose, we have to find things to complain about, because it’s what we do. HGTV has made a killing off of this mentality.
Oh, that color trim is so five years ago.
Oh, you have the cheap flooring. Tsk, tsk. Why don’t you renovate? Your house could really use it. It’s really not that expensive.
This kind of thinking weasels its way into our heads and we barely recognize our own complaining. Changing the ceiling or the floors, after all, is just what people do.
What about those people who live in garbage heaps? Do they get to choose to update their ceilings? Their floors?
What about those people who make their homes with their hands out of materials they can find? Do they get to replace vinyl flooring for stone?
What about those people who sleep on the ground? Would they replace that old, squeaky mattress for a newer one?
What about those people who have never even seen a grocery store? Would they be annoyed if all they could find in a full pantry was the wrong kind of cereal?
What Can We Do To Be More Thankful?
Complaining is our bread and butter here in the most prosperous nation in the world. Let’s wake up and recognize how much we have!
If you’re still reading, that means you have thick enough skin to take the beating I just gave you. It’s one of those sorry-not-sorry moments. We need to be reminded of how much we have, and sometimes that means revealing how much we complain about what we have. But we don’t have to remain stuck in our discontented mindset. We can break free from it!
Just because we live in a society that tells us we never have enough doesn’t mean we have to subscribe to that idea.
We can become more thankful, it just takes a little purposeful action.
Exchange Complaints for Prayers of Thankfulness
Challenge yourself this week to do two things:
Become aware of your complaints. Simply try to take notice of them (you won’t be able to rid yourself of them in one week, but seeing them is the first step).
Every time you recognize a complaint, find something to praise and thank God for instead.
Complaint: Man, I wish I didn’t have to do this homework today.
Prayer: Lord, thank you that I live in a country that provides education for everyone. Thank you that I can attend school. Thank you that I have teachers. Thank you for gifting me with the ability to read, write, and process information. Let me use my intelligence to honor You.
Complaint: How are we out of gum? I really wanted some gum!
Prayer: Lord, thank you that I can open my pantry and see food. Thank you that my family is not hungry. Thank you for grocery stores that provide every food imaginable so easily and so quickly. Thank you that I do not have to grow and produce my own food. Please bless my family to always be able to afford food, because You are the One who provides all things.
Complaint: I wish I had a house/car/purse like hers.
Prayer: Father, thank you for my home/car/clothing.
Over time, as thankfulness begins to eclipse complaints, our hearts will change. We will see the good things our Lord has given us, and we will please Him with our humble gratitude.
Once we are thankful for the things the Lord has already given us, we are in a much better place to make decisions about things we can afford to do and want to do, such as buying that pair of shoes we’ve been wanting. It’s not wrong to buy new things, but we often do it for the wrong reasons—as a means of rectifying some hidden complaint. This is a difficult thing to combat because we’ve been trained to think this way since early childhood.
But thankfully, thankfulness changes everything!
More Ways To Grow Our Gratitude
Below are a few more things you can do that will make a big difference.
Three easy steps to cultivating thankfulness:
Read the scriptures. There is really no other thing we can do that will drive us to thankfulness than to see what our God has done for us.
Write the word “thankful” and put it somewhere you can see it. When you see the note, offer a quick prayer of thankfulness to God for something near you or something you’ve used that day. (Ever thanked God for your plumbing?)
Go a day without TV and/or social media (eep!). The temptation to compare ourselves to others is a hard one to combat, especially when we have so many avenues for seeing what others have these days. Take a drastic step toward toning down this temptation. In the time you would normally be watching TV or scrolling through posts, thank the Lord for the people and things around you.
Consider sharing this post with someone you know or simply posting it to social media. You never know who might benefit from hearing this today.
If you’d like more encouragement on how to transform your mindset, check out this post about what we allow to fill our minds. As always, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and download the free ebook that prays through the entire book of Ephesians with 31 days of scriptural prayers. That is one way to shift our thinking away from our complaints toward the blessings God has given us.