Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Contentment or Bitterness

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Listen moms; it is so important that you have a grateful spirit with your husband and with your children, that you not be a whiner, a complainer because your children will grow up not wanting to be at home if the atmosphere at home is a complaining spirit.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author of Choosing Gratitude.

 A woman wrote in response to the program that aired yesterday. She’s divorced with four children at home. She wrote, “Alone. Empty. I know that I have an ungrateful heart.”

In her circumstance, does she have a right to be ungrateful? Nancy will show you how to give thanks through great difficulty, continuing in the series, The Attitude of Gratitude.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: All of us have been blessed by some of the hymns that were written by Fanny Crosby. This woman wrote over 8,000 songs in her lifetime. Some of them we’re familiar with: To God Be the Glory, Blessed Assurance, Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It, All the Way My Savior Leads Me and countless others that have been such a blessing to God’s people over the years.

What you may not know is that Fanny Crosby was a woman who by today’s standards could have been a basket case. She could have been a very unhappy, miserable, troubled woman. In fact, had she lived in today’s culture she well might have become just that way.

Her father died when she was very young, and she was left to be raised by her mother and her grandmother. When she was just six weeks old as a little baby and as a result of a doctor’s careless mistake, she was afflicted with lifelong blindness. Those tragic and traumatic circumstances of her childhood years would have given most people more than enough grounds for a lifetime of self-pity, bitterness, and psychological disorders.

And yet, in her autobiography Fanny Crosby wrote these words. She said, “It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.”

You see, Fanny Crosby was a thankful woman. She knew what it was to have the attitude of gratitude. The doctor who destroyed her sight never forgave himself and moved away from the area. But there was no room in Fanny Crosby’s heart for resentment toward that man.

She said, “If I could meet him now, I would say, ‘Thank you! Thank you!’ over and over again for making me blind.”

You see, the blindness that most would have considered an accident or a tragedy or a curse, she considered to be one of her greatest blessings. She actually accepted her blindness as a gift from God.

She said, “I could not have written thousands of hymns if I’d been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.” Always looking for a reason to be thankful.

Fanny’s first poem was written when she was just eight years old. And it shows this perspective, this attitude of gratitude that she had from that point all the way until her death at the age of 95.

She wrote as an eight-year-old girl:

Oh, what a happy child I am,
 Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep or sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, nor I won’t.

Now that might be kind of odd verse—“I cannot, nor I won’t”—but it’s great theology. A thankful-hearted woman, and what a blessing her life has been. The overflow, the fragrance, the beauty of her life decades ago is still living with us today—the overflow of a thankful heart.

We’ve been looking at the characteristics of a grateful heart and the characteristics of an ungrateful heart. I want us to see today that people with grateful hearts are easily contented while ungrateful people become prisoners to bitterness and discontentment. Grateful people are easily contented, but ungrateful people become prisoners to bitterness and discontentment.

For many years now I’ve been talking with people who are chronically unhappy, chronically depressed, chronically frustrated and emotionally unstable. There are a lot of women like that even in our churches today—always miserable, always some major disorder.

I’ve become convinced over lots and lots of conversations with miserable people that very often these disorders stem from an unthankful heart, from a failure to be thankful.

Now, I’m not saying that the problems aren’t real. I’m just saying when you go back to the root, often you will find a root of ingratitude. There are often external circumstances that provide some sort of explanation, but the root is not those circumstances.

You see, Fanny Crosby could have been a miserable woman, but she wasn’t. She was fruitful. She was full. She was blessed. She was free even though her circumstances could have left her miserable, could have left her with all kinds of psychological disorders.

But because she was a grateful person, she was a contented person, stable.

An ungrateful person holds tightly to his rights. And as a result he sets himself up for hurt and for disappointment when God or others fail to meet his expectations. When God doesn’t come through, from their standpoint, or when others fail to perform, when their parents or their mate don’t do what they think they ought to do; then these people set themselves up for disappointment because they’re holding onto their rights.

But the thankful people have yielded all their rights to God. So they see all of life through thankful eyes. A thankful heart really does give you a different pair of glasses through which to look at the world.

The thankful person has no room in his heart for selfish and destructive emotions—emotions like bitterness and resentment and anger. So people with grateful hearts are easily contented while ungrateful people are prisoners to bitterness and discontent.

Now here’s another characteristic of a grateful heart. A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by grateful words. Our heart comes out in the words we speak. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, ESV). 

So a person who has a grateful heart will speak grateful words; whereas, a person who has an unthankful heart will speak what kinds of words?

  • complaining words
  • murmuring words
  • griping 
  • whining

You see, a grateful spirit enables people to view the most painful circumstances in life with thanksgiving, to respond to problems and pain and suffering with gratitude.

One person said, “Some people complain because God put thorns on roses while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.” Grateful people express their gratitude in thankful words.

Some of you are familiar with the name David Brainerd. He was a missionary to the American Indians who died actually at the age of 29. He really just poured out his life in service as a missionary.

Here’s a man who was characterized by a thankful spirit, and that spirit enabled him to count his blessings even when he was in the middle of some incredible difficulties. He lived in very simple, primitive circumstances taking the gospel out into the wilderness.

On one occasion while he was visiting some friends, he suddenly developed a toothache and a shivering cold. During the night he was attacked by a high fever and had great pain throughout his whole body.

Yet he thanked God in this situation that this distress had fallen on him while he was with friends rather than when he was out alone in the wilderness.

Then there was another time that he became ill in his little hut and he suffered severe pain. And this time he wrote in his diary, “Blessed be the Lord. I am not exposed in the open air. I have a house and many comforts to support me.”

Now, he didn’t have many comforts as we would measure comforts today. But because he had a thankful heart, he verbalized that gratitude even in the middle of this circumstance when he was sick in this little hut where he was living.

Then there was another occasion when he was facing long weeks of solitude as the writer says, “Forging through swamps on rocky terrain through dark nights and cut off from all human companionship.”

This time he wasn’t with friends. This time he was all alone, and here’s what he wrote this time: “What reason for thankfulness I have on account of this retirement.” He went on to explain that contact with people gave him the privilege of friendship and companionship, but when he was lonely, that drove him to experience intimate fellowship with the Lord.

  • When he had people, he was thankful for people.
  • When he didn’t have people, he was thankful he didn’t have people because that drove him to the Lord.
  • When he was able to stay in a home, he was grateful for that.
  • When he was in a little hut in the wilderness, he was thankful that he had those many comforts.

Thankful people express their hearts in thankful words.

Here’s one more characteristic. Thankful people are refreshing, life-giving springs to others. Their thankfulness overflows to others. Thankfulness is contagious, and by the way, so is unthankfulness.

Ungrateful people will pull others around them into the muck and mire of their own quicksand of ingratitude. They’re both contagious.

We’ve all known people who are just no fun to be around because they’re negative people. There’s always something wrong. They always have this down-in-the-mouth way of looking at life.

And you ask them, “How are you doing?” And the first thing out of their mouth is going to be negative.

I can tell you that I tend naturally toward a negative way of thinking and responding. One of the things I’m trying to do, trying to make a habit of, is when people say, “How are you doing?” if there’s some need or burden or concern, I want to feel the freedom to share that, but first I want to say something about how good God is and how blessed I am. I want to say thankful words before I share the burden, before I share the concern.

Because I tell you, we can become just miserable to be around. That negative attitude is so contagious. We know what it’s like to have our own attitudes affected negatively by negative people.

Unthankfulness poisons and contaminates the atmospheres in our homes, in our hearts, and other relationships. And let me ask you, by the way, “How is the atmosphere in your home?” Is it possible that within the four walls of your own home that there’s been a contaminating spirit of your unthankfulness, your negative spirit?

Listen moms; it is so important that you have a grateful spirit with your husband and with your children, that you not be a whiner, a complainer because your children will grow up not wanting to be at home if the atmosphere at home is a complaining spirit. It’s contagious. It contaminates.

But I’ll tell you, gratefulness is equally contagious. Over the next several sessions, we want to talk about the practical outworking of thanksgiving, the practical outworking of a grateful heart. How does it express itself?

Let me make several suggestions here about how we should give thanks. And I’m going back to the Scripture to find this teaching on how we give thanks.

First, we’re told in the Scripture that we’re to give thanks audibly, aloud, with our voice. Not just thinking grateful thoughts—that’s where it starts—but expressing those grateful thoughts in words.

We defined gratitude earlier as learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits which I have received from God and others. The grateful heart recognizes those benefits and then expresses those benefits to God and to others. We’ve received benefits from others. We’ve received benefits from God. If we’re going to give thanks we need to say, “Thank you”—thank you to God and thank you to others.

We need to speak up. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Let us offer the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” I realize there are so many things I’m thankful for in my heart if I stop and think about it, but I just don’t stop and think about it. Sometimes when I do think about it, I just don’t say it.

Say it. Speak up. Say, “God has been good.”

As we were driving over the bridge across the river this morning coming to the recording session, I looked over that river and the sun was just coming up over the river and was sparkling on the water. And I just said aloud, “Thank you Lord for this beautiful scene. It just refreshes us. It’s just one of the most beautiful places right in this area."

My heart felt thankful, but it’s important to say, “Thank you, Lord,” to express it out loud with our voice offering the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.

And then we’re told in the Scripture to thank the Lord with music. Psalm 28 says, “With my song I will thank him” (verse 7, NASB). Singing to the Lord. Psalm 147: “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving” (verse 7, KJV). That’s a command.

Now you may be thinking, “I’m not much of a singer.” Well, I’m not much a singer. In fact, I love to sing, but they won’t let me sing in these recordings. I keep threatening that one of these days I’m just going to break out into a song, but they don’t like it when I do that for radio recordings.

But I do love to sing, and it’s best when I do it when there’s no one around. But whether it’s in church with others of God’s people or in a group like this or just on my own as I knelt before the Lord this morning before coming to this session having had a very short night, being tired and not sure how all of this was going to fit together; but I stopped before leaving my home today to kneel and to sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, singing praise to the Lord.

There’s something about singing to the Lord, singing our thanksgiving to Him, that lifts our spirits and energizes us and reminds us of how much we have to be thankful for. There are many instances in Scripture of music being a part of thanksgiving.

I think of the account in the book of Nehemiah when the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt and the people came together to dedicate the wall. The Scripture says, “They sought out the Levites . . . so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres” (Nehemiah 12:27, NASB).

Singing to the Lord and using musical instruments to express hymns of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.

I was a piano major in college. I don’t play by ear, so I haven’t played much since college. I don’t play a lot. But sometimes in my home when I’m there as infrequent as it is these days, I have a piano in my home and sometimes even late at night or even in the middle of the night after a long day, I will go down to the piano and begin to play and to sing with a hymnal open in front of me, singing choruses and hymns and songs and psalms of praise.

Now sometimes I love doing it with a piano, and sometimes it’s great just acapella. Sometimes I’ll even read a passage of Scripture that is a psalm of praise and just begin to sing it to the Lord not using a melody that someone else has written but just making up my own melody singing to the Lord.

I’d love to show you how, but they would cut it from the tape if I did it right now anyway. But I’ll take a passage of Scripture that is just a psalm of thanksgiving and just begin to sing to the Lord. With my song I will thank him. Sing out.

You look around at church these days and you see so many people not singing during the song time. I mean, it’s a time for songs and choruses and hymns of praise, but so many people are not moving their mouths. I’ll tell you this: You cannot sing without moving your mouth; you just can't do it.

We need to sing to the Lord. You say, “I’m not a great singer.” I’m not either. But sing out anyway. Speak out and sing out.

And then we give thanks with prayer. Colossians 1 the apostle Paul says, “We give thanks to God . . . praying always for you" (verse 3, NASB), thanking God in our prayers.

Paul goes on to say in Colossians 4, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (verse 2, NKJV). Praying with thanksgiving, so I’m expressing my thanks to God in prayers.

While I’ve been preparing this series, I’ve been thinking of how little I actually say, “Thank you” to God. I think I do have a grateful heart. I do feel like a very blessed woman. Not that everything in my life has gone well and has been easy, but I try to focus hard on the blessings of God, and I try to think about them a lot.

But often I stop short of expressing it to Him. So in my prayers I need to learn to say thank you. How often we cry out to the Lord and ask Him for things and then forget to come back when He has answered and say thank you, or even to say thank you before we’ve received the answer. So we give God thanks in prayer.

Now there are two other aspects of how we give God thanks that are talked about in the Scripture, and I want to call your attention to them in these last moments. There’s a private aspect of thanksgiving, and there’s a public aspect of thanksgiving. Let’s look at the private one first, private worship.

I think one of the greatest examples of that in the Scripture is Daniel in the Old Testament. He was a man who had a grateful heart. He expressed his grateful heart with words and prayers of thanksgiving.

Daniel chapter 2 tells us the instance when the king, King Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream and demanded that Daniel interpret it. Daniel went to the Lord and asked the Lord to help him understand the king’s dream.

And the Lord gave him wisdom. The Lord told him what the dream meant. The Scripture says in Daniel 2:19,

Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever. . . .He reveals deep and dark things . . . I thank you and praise you, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand” (verses 19-23, NKJV).

Daniel was saying, “God, we asked You to show what the king’s dream meant, snd now we come back to You and thank You.”

But he expressed this privately. This is private worship. Daniel is a man who alone with the Lord expressed thanksgiving.

Then we come to chapter 6 of the book of Daniel. Now there’s another king, King Darius. He has issued a decree, an edict, that for 30 days no one can ask anyone but the king for anything. This was a set up to trap Daniel by some of his peers who didn’t like him and wanted to get rid of him and his position in the government.

And the Scripture says in Daniel 6:9,

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days (verses 9-10).

Daniel had a habit three times a day apparently of getting on his knees and praying and giving thanks to God privately. Private worship and praise.

But let me just say that it’s not enough for our praise and our thanksgiving to be private. It needs to be public.

The psalmist said in Psalm 57, “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations” (verse 9, NASB).

He saying, “God among those who are not believers, among the pagan nations, among the heathen will sing praise to You.” And then he says, “Not just among those who are non-believers, but in the company of God’s people I will give thanks.”

Psalm 35:18: “I will give You thanks in the great congregation” (NASB).

Psalm 111:1: “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly” (NASB).

Have you ever been in one of those praise times in your church or in a small group where the leader said, “We’re going to take some time to just thank the Lord”? Share a testimony or say a word of praise or thanksgiving or lift up prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.

And then you hear this big, long silence. Then maybe one courageous person sneaks in and says something that they're thankful for. And then another big, long silence.

Now there’s nothing wrong with silence, unless it’s time to be thankful. Then we need to speak up and sing out and express, “God has been so good to me.”

You say, “Well, I’m just not the public kind of person.” Listen, if you’ve received the grace of God for your abounding guilt, His abounding grace, then you will not be able to help being a grateful person and expressing that gratitude not only when you’re alone but publicly.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart in the company of the upright and in the assembly.”

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s been listing some practical ways we can show gratitude. I hope that thanksgiving isn’t just the name of holiday you’re about to mark. I hope it’s the sincere attitude of your heart.

Nancy’s new book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, can help make thanksgiving a reality in your life all year long. When you take the words of this book to heart, you’ll complain and grumble less and express gratitude more often.

Have a deeply meaningful holiday tomorrow, and I hope you make Revive Our Hearts part of your day when Nancy describes one of the most compelling reasons to be thankful, more powerful than the rest. Now she’ll lead us in prayer.

Nancy: Father, we have to confess that if the condition of our hearts is measured by how thankful we are that sometimes our hearts are really not very righteous. So I pray that You would cleanse us and give us thankful hearts.

Lord, we want to be like Jesus. So I pray that we will be thankful even as He was about the big things and the little things as well. For they all come from You.

Then, Lord, we want to give You thanks because we know that is the eternal occupation of Heaven. So even this moment, we join in with the angels, with the citizens, with the choirs of Heaven and we say, “Thank you, O Lord. You are worthy to receive glory and honor and praise and worship. We give You thanks for Jesus. We give You thanks for salvation. We give You thanks for Your grace. We give You thanks.”

And may we do it all of this life and through all of eternity. We pray with thankful hearts in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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