Generation Cedar

I have discovered what I believe to be THE most important thing we can cultivate in our lives and instill in our children–the thing that will most determine how happy they are in life:

Gratitude.

I know, you were hoping for something more spectacular or less common. But there are shades of gratitude (or ingratitude) we might not readily recognize.

First of all, we understand that gratitude isn’t simply remembering to say “thank you” when someone is kind or giving. Gratitude is a posture of processing everything in life that happens to us through the correct lens of truth.

It’s recognizing that we came into the world with nothing, no one owes us anything (not even God who has already given us the priceless gift of eternal life through His Son’s death) and all that we have is a gift.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, describes gratitude as the result of humility, and ingratitude the result of pride, because the proud in heart believes he is owed something and can, in fact, never be satisfied with what he gets.

Have you seen a spirit of ingratitude lived out? We can talk about it in a book or a blog post, but until you’ve seen its destructive power you can’t quite grasp just how important it is.

A person with a spirit of ingratitude can’t move forward, especially when trials come (and trails will come!) They become paralyzed with the thoughts of “life is so unfair” and unable to see the blessings, gifts and grace poured out to them along the way.

Conversely, a grateful spirit, when faced with trials, can focus on all he has been given, look at his trial as an opportunity to grow and learn, and though there may be grief still, he doesn’t get bogged down with a victim mentality, shaking his fist at the world, never able to get back up and move again.

He is able to say with Job, even through pain, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Of all the many things I wish to cultivate into the hearts of my children, I’m trying fervently to get this lesson across. To point them, even in the smallest of examples, to give thanks for where they are, what they have, and God’s abundant grace, and to recognize how he uses others in our lives to pour out that grace.

I believe it can make all the difference in the world to how they will respond to challenges as they grow up. It will make the difference in an overflowing heart (even in the direst of conditions) or an overwhelmed one.

May we grow them into real joy!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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14 Responses

  1. Wonderful post! We needed to hear this.

    As a mother of a three yr old, what are some practical examples of how I can teach her gratitude? Even at her young age?
    Thank you for sharing motherly wisdom. 🙂

  2. I’m having a lot of trouble getting onto and around your site today, with some internet problems we’re having here. Can I complain about that on the gratitude post? 😛

    Seriously now, this is a great, timely (and timeless) word. All the little annoyances there are in life — I always need to ask myself why I focus on the bad parts of those things, and act like I have a “right” to be displeased.

    There is always some blessing to be found in the difficulties. Instead of thinking, “Why does my old arm and shoulder injury have to act up now when I have a piano performance to prepare for?”, I can say instead, “Thank you, Lord, for arms, hands, and fingers, for joints, limbs, and muscles that move. Thank you, Lord, for a piano in the house, and children who play it so that I can hear my piano sing while I heal.”

    Instead of coming down on a child who drops a heavy cushion from the leather couch onto the wood floor with a loud bang while I’m trying to concentrate on something, I can thank the Lord for the couch that cushion came from, given to us free of charge by someone who no longer needs it. I can be grateful for a house with a floor. For children who don’t need expensive toys to find creative ways to play with what we already have. I can thank God for children, and the happy noises they make playing. It could be an empty house, devoid of their joyful presence.

    In every challenge, there are far more blessings, if I would but see them and intentionally live with gratitude toward the whole package, the bad along with the good.

    Thank you for the link to Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book at Amazon. The excerpt there is extensive, and it looks like an excellent book, from the parts I read, especially the “A Personal PS” section — that part really spoke to me.

    Thanks, Kelly, I needed this post. 🙂

    1. Loved this book. It changed my life, really. And I’m not a fan of Ann Vos Kamp. Her writing style bugs me to death, but the content of this book was amazing. I’ve been working on my thankfulness journal for a couple years now.

    1. I don’t know if this is helpful, but here are a couple of things we’ve done with our daughter. She is now 5. We talk about things we are thankful for every night. When we pray, we thank God for them. One area that I see many kids showing ingratitude is during gift giving occasions. When a birthday or Christmas is coming up I will say things like, “What if someone gives you something you don’t like? Do you say eww this gift is not what I wanted?” This makes my daughter laugh, but it’s a good way to tell her appropriate ways to respond. Probably the most important thing to do is to just model gratitude in the everyday parts of life. I have to remember to do all thing without murmur or complaint because my daughter is watching how I respond to everything. It’s sometime seemingly small things that make a big difference.

  3. I would wholeheartedly agree. I saw the title of your post before reading it so pondered the title first and I thought to myself that I would say it’s learning to cope in all situations. Then I read your post and very much agree because if we can learn to adapt to any situation, we learn to be grateful for what we have.

  4. “Have you seen a spirit of ingratitude lived out? We can talk about it in a book or a blog post, but until you’ve seen its destructive power…”
    Destructive power, indeed.
    And have you noticed how difficult it can be at times to be gracefully grateful? Its (self)gratifying to give, but to be on the receiving end can be quite trying (humiliating). Part of our sinfull human nature, I guess 😉

  5. I agree wholeheartedly! Beginning our private prayers and our family prayers with thankfulness for everyday things, good and bad (or to us bad), is an excellent way to remind ourselves and our families of all that God has blessed us with…:)

  6. I’ve been trying to look for and be verbally thankful for the little things, because this ends up helping change my attitude toward the big things. Thankful for the sunrise colors, coffee in the morning, the half hour of quiet I have for devotions before the kids wake up… if I start the morning thanking God, it carries me through the whole day.

  7. Love this! Gratitude is something we work very hard at in our house, too. I think I am especially conscientious of training in this area because I have an only child, and I don’t want her to think things will always go her way. Dealing with disappointments with gratitude is an important lifelong skill.

    My husband and I have dealt with things (life threatening illness and infertility) that have changed completely the way we thought our life would be. Focusing on God’s goodness and sovereignty has helped us develop hearts of gratitude.

    It is not always easy. Even now, a few years removed from the extreme difficulties, there are moments when I question why God allowed things to be the way they are. There are still moments when I think it’s not fair. But every time, God reminds me that He is in control, He is faithful, and He wants me to look more like Him. I share that because I think there are times that we can let out our disappointment and sadness, but we must replace it with truth and right thinking. I wonder sometimes if gratitude is a work in progress.

  8. It’s true, and not just a quickly list of what I’m thankful for. If I can’t be thankful through the really hard stuff I am so sad and heavy inside. Same with kiddos.

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