A Thanksgiving countdown to help you grow gratitude in your life, your family and in your sphere of influence:
13. Remove the poison of discontent. Confess areas of discontent, entitlement and ingratitude to God and prayerfully ask for a clean, grateful heart.
12. Build an Ebenezer – in Samuel 7:12, we read that the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it “eben ezer” (a Hebrew phrase which means, roughly “a stone of commemoration”), saying “thus far the Lord has helped us.” In other words, a physical object designed to call to mind God’s past faithfulness. For Samuel it was a stone. For you it could be a stone or any other physical object that draws attention. Put it up as a family and spend some time remembering God’s faithfulness as you erect it.
12. Memorize Philippians 4:4-8
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.
11. Serve someone who is needier than you!
10. Keep a gratitude journal – a list of things that God has done in your life and in the lives of those close to you. Read it whenever you’re feeling discontent about your present circumstances.
9. Fill up a Thank-You Jar. Whenever God goes before you to prepare a way for you, answers a prayer, or reminds you of His love for you in even a small way, write it on a slip of paper and drop it in a Thank You jar – somewhere where everyone in the family will be reminded to contribute. At the end of every month, take some time to go through it as a family, remembering and thanking God for His faithfulness.
8. Refuse to compare. Remember, discontent often arises from comparison. Don’t do it! And especially, don’t compare what you do know about yourself to what you don’t know about someone else!
7. Watch for opportunities to see God redeem your circumstances. Remember: everything God has allowed in your life, He intends on using for His glory and your ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). Surrender even those things in your past were truly miserable and look expectantly for God to redeem them – perhaps by leading you to someone going through a similar circumstance where you can offer stories of God’s faithfulness.
5. Remind yourself that God is sovereign. Intentionally remind yourself that God has placed you where you are “for such a time as this” (a la Esther 4:14). If you get distracted wishing for a ministry opportunity like “hers”, a gifting like “his”, a job where you can really shine like “theirs”, you’ll miss the unique opportunities that God has given you to have an impact for the Kingdom right where you are – with the people He’s brought alongside you.
4. Avoid voicing discontent. Discontent, like anger, is rarely curbed by expression. Our expressions of discontent fix our eyes on what we do not have, blinding us to what we do. Conversely, a single prayer of thanks will often snowball into an avalanche of realization that sweeps away the petty discontent creeping up in our souls.
3. Review stories of God’s faithfulness. Reviewing God’s past faithfulness to yourself and to others encourages your faith, strengthens you to face the present and fosters a heart of gratitude by reminding you of how much He has done for you and for others. Here are a few ideas for reviewing stories of God’s faithfulness:
- Read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, Gospels and Acts for a focus on stories of how God came through for his people
- Read Christian Biographies of some of the heroes of our faith (George Muller, Gladys Aylward, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Peter Marshall, Jim Elliott, etc., etc.)
- Plan a story night with friends – ask everyone to each tell at least one story of how God came through for them – sharing stories with each other helps you recount your own past with God, and encourages you to hear how He has worked in the lives of those you love!
- Draw a “life map” – a physical map or timeline of your life, representing the highs and lows and ask God to show you as you do it how he helped you along the way. This is a great group project too – for everyone to do and then come together and share theirs with the group – again, you will end up telling each other about God’s provision and faithfulness.
2. Create “Gratitude Graffiti”. Make a grafitti wall with butcher paper – or with a chalk board in some high traffic area – where people passing by can add their own remarks. This is a great way to get the neighbor kids in on cultivating grateful hearts – and eventually on watching for God’s faithfulness. Great conversations can happen with kids who don’t think of God as the one who provides for them.
1. Worship. It also goes a long way to curb ingratitude when you worship God and appreciate Him for what he has done. Putting God in his proper place (as GOD), and consequently you in yours (as a humble human), is a great way to grow gratitude and fight off entitlement. Sing How Great Is Our God or Great Is Thy Faithfulness at moments when discontent threatens to hijack your gratefulness.