“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
While there were many things that I enjoyed about being a mom, I also 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.
We started by memorizing some Bible verses and by regularly encouraging them to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Then it occurred to me to use something we all loved—reading together—to introduce my children to role models of faith and gratitude (the two often go together).
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. These men and women are true heroes, the kind of role models I wanted for my children.
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.
Lesson 1: Can you see it? Finding the Good in the Bad
Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .Ephesians 5:20
An eight-year-old, whom we’ll call Amy, wrote in her diary:
Today I forgot to brush my hair and my watch almost broke. My brother goes around the house screaming and bothering me. I can’t not take anymore. I almost feel like running away, but I can’t because I simple have no place to go. Darin is a pain at school. Mr. O’Neil picks Vern all the time. It has been a bad day. I’m glad nothing will be rong in heaven!
We all have bad days; sometimes we have several in a row. Often our bad days are simply full of nuisances like Amy’s little brother, or a driver in front of us who is going so slowly we’re late for an appointment, or the grocery store running out of the one item we need for dinner. The vacuum breaks, our favorite tee shirt gets lost, our cell phone keeps dropping calls, a neighbor complains about where we put our trash can. It’s pouring rain—again—and the kids are stuck in the house all day. Inconveniences and inconsiderate people can make for bad days.
But think for a moment. Is it possible that God is using that slow driver in front of you to protect you from a wreck? When you lose a valued possession, might God be teaching you contentment? When someone in your life is being difficult, could God be giving you an opportunity to pray and see what He will do?
Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Are you willing to look for the good that God intends in something that may seem bad?
Matthew Henry was a Puritan preacher from the late 1600s. Like our friend Amy, he once wrote in his diary about something bad that happened to him. One day, while walking home in London, he was robbed by a couple of men who jumped him from the shadows of an alley. Being robbed is hardly an everyday nuisance—it’s much more unsettling, more of a personal violation that can leave one feeling vulnerable and frightened.
Reverend Henry probably felt those things, but what he wrote that night is very instructive: “Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.” What a great perspective on a difficult situation!
Matthew Henry chose to look for the good that was hidden in the bad. And by doing this he showed us how important it is to focus on the positive that God wants us to see in every situation in life. It’s always there; we just have to choose to look for it.
When we give thanks, we are saying to God that He is good in all that He orders for our lives. We are filling our minds with the larger truth about our situation and about Him, not just feeling sorry for ourselves that bad things have happened.
Thanking God is not a magic wand that makes everything perfect, but it does bring balance to our emotions to keep us from feeling only sad or lonely or unhappy.
What hard things have happened to you recently? Are you willing to look for the hidden good in them? Do as Matthew Henry did and write down what you can be thankful for in your hard situation.
Stay tuned to get the next lessons here on the blog the next several Thursdays. Here’s a link to Lesson 2. 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!
If you like this idea, check out my book Written and Remembered, 4 stories of classic heroes that invite your family to understand the power of gratitude (pictured below).