I admit to being a discouraged mom at times. With six children it seemed like someone was always unhappy about something – what they had to eat, where they had to sit, who they had to sit next to, what they had to wear, and on and on. None of them seemed to mind voicing their unhappiness. Complaining was as natural as breathing to them.
I wanted more grateful kids. So, I took it as a personal challenge to develop in my children an attitude of gratitude.
Now I would like to pass some of these stories along to other families. Ultimately, gratitude is a choice of the will, but I still believe that introducing our children to the true stories of people who accepted their discomforts and limitations with faith and gratitude will inspire our children to think differently about their own lives.
The goal of this gratitude series is to help you lead your children to focus on gratitude.
By repeatedly talking about this quality you can begin to reinforce the concept in their thinking, and the additional benefit will be the time you spend together as a family. Whether your family all piles on the couch together for these stories or one person reads as everyone else stands in the kitchen fixing school lunches or eating a quick breakfast, hearing great stories of faith together will be a bonding time for all.
May your family discover the joy that comes when we choose to give thanks and acknowledge God’s loving involvement in the circumstances of our lives. Here’s a prayer that would be an easy start to begin each lesson.
“Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank You for this place in which we dwell, for the love accorded us this day, for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth.” —Robert Lewis Stevenson
Having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. —Ephesians 1:11
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony in New England, suffered great loss in his childhood. When he was sixteen months old, his father died; he never knew the man for whom he was named. At the age of four, after his mother remarried and for reasons unknown, young William was sent to live with his grandfather. Two years later, his grandfather died and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. The greatest loss of his young life occurred a year later when his mother also died.
The Bible tells us that God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4), so we must believe that He was fully aware of all that was going on in young William’s life. What was God doing? Why did He allow such pain to fall on one so young and alone?
After being moved to his fourth home in seven years, William found himself living with two uncles in another village in England. They were delighted to have him as another worker for their farm. However, William’s trials were not over. He soon became sick and did not recover quickly.
In his long illness we finally see a glimmer of hope that God was indeed in control. Because William was unable to do manual labor, he was allowed to learn to read and write—skills that very few commoners were able to acquire in the 1600s. William likely received his education from a local minister.
Though his sickness left him frail and weak, by the age of twelve he had read many books from the pastor’s library, which of course included the Bible and books such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. God’s providence—that He was providing William’s training and preparing him for future use—is clear to us now, though it was not so obvious at the time.
William’s Bible reading drew him to God but also left him with questions. As a teenager, he was invited by a friend to attend another church in a nearby town. It was, however, a church that was viewed as opposing the Queen of England and so was considered controversial. This church believed in teaching the true Word of God as man’s authority.
In spite of his uncles’ strong objections, William chose to walk many miles each Sunday to attend this church. There he met Mr. Brewster who mentored him in the faith and became like a father to him. Years later in 1620, Mr. Brewster joined William Bradford on the journey to the new world aboard the Mayflower.
God allowed William Bradford to endure a life of trial because in His providence God was preparing William for his future calling. That calling included leading the colonists of Plymouth as they journeyed over the Atlantic to the new world and then serving as their governor for over thirty years.
Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans that I have for you.” God wanted William to learn to read and write, to learn to think and pray, so he could follow in the path God had prepared beforehand.
Here is a prayer like the ones prayed by William Bradford and the Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower. Some of the words sound different from those we use in our prayers today, but sometimes it is good to pray using words written by someone else. This helps us think about God in different terms.
A PURITAN PRAYER
I believe thee,
I accept thy Word,
I submit to thy will,
I rely on thy promises,
I trust thy providence.
Thy providence has set the bounds of my habitation,
and wisely administers all my affairs.
Help me to see Your providence in all that concerns me
And may I ever give you thanks.
Giving thanks for providence
Providence has been described as “the evidence that God has not left this planet alone in the vast universe or forgotten for a moment the human situation. God visits, touches, communicates, controls, and intervenes, coming before and between man and his needs. Providence is the ground for thankfulness.”[ii]
Can you believe that God is providentially working in your life and your circumstances? Give thanks today for what God has allowed in your life that may not make sense to you now. He is not asleep. He has a plan for your life. Will you choose to believe that He is at work?
Stay tuned to get the next lessons here on the blog the next several Thursdays. If you missed Lesson 1, you can find it here. I invite you to subscribe to my blog here so that you’ll get the stories right in your inbox as soon as they’re available!
[i] Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
[ii] Walter A. Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2