Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Here’s Barbara Rainey on the power of gratitude.

Barbara Rainey: God is sovereign, and when I focus on that, then it makes all of those negative things that are swirling around not quite so important, because God’s bigger than all of that.

Leslie Basham: It’s Friday, November 15, 2019. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Nancy, can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? I’m so excited this year. It's my first year as a grandmother.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yay!

Dannah: Yes! I get to establish some new traditions with Addie and Zoey for our Thanksgiving celebration. What are you looking forward to?

Nancy: I can't top that one. But Robert and I are looking forward to spending part of that week with some of my siblings and their kids, my nieces and nephews. We don't get to do that very often, so that will be a real sweet time for us.

Dannah: It's a precious time to catch up. Now, Thanksgiving isn’t just a U.S. holiday. It's something that we get to choose every single day. You write about this in one of what I think is your classic books called Choosing Gratitude. It’s had an amazing effect on a lot of readers.

When it first came out, our friend Barbara Rainey talked with you about thanksgiving, and we’re going to re-visit that gem from our audio vault today.

Nancy: Barbara Rainey has such a heart for the message of Thanksgiving . . . not only the season and holiday, but the whole heart of gratitude. Barbara is the co-founder of FamilyLife along with her husband Dennis. She's the author of several books, including a really sweet one about marriage called Letters to My Daughters. Let’s listen to this conversation I had a number of years ago with Barbara Rainey.

Nancy: I was just reading in the book of Acts, Acts 16, where Paula and Silas are in this prison, in stocks, in a dungeon environment. They've been beaten mercilessly. Here they are at midnight, praying and singing hymns to the Lord.

I read that and I think, I have these little things going wrong in my day—a run in my nylon—and it wrecks my day. But here they are under the most adverse circumstances, and making that choice of the heart to give thanks. Where does that come from? How do you learn to think that way?

Barbara: I think Paul is a great example for us. It was a choice he made. I think gratitude is a choice. When you are in a difficult situation, our tendency is to feel self-pity. Paul and Silas were probably in great pain. I'm sure they weren't given a bunch of Tylenol to ease their pain after being beaten. I'm sure their wounds were bleeding. We don't stop to think about what it really felt like. We just know the words of the story. And yet, they chose to sing and praise.

I think it's very counter-intuitive, which indicates it's a choice. I think it's always a choice. Giving thanks is always a choice.

Nancy: It starts in the heart. You can walk through a Hallmark store and see all these pretty cards and thank-you gifts, and that gives you a measure of gratitude, but really, gratitude goes deeper than that. It’s one thing to send thank-you cards and notes, but it’s another thing to have a heart that is truly thankful for the mercies of God and the grace of God—the manifold graces of God poured out on our lives.

Barbara: I agree, and like anything else, I think it can be developed just as any other discipline in our lives or any other attitude in our lives. It can be developed by practice. You don’t become good on the piano, you don’t become a great doctor, you don’t become good at anything without practice and study. I think gratitude is no exception.

Nancy: I think also recognizing the need for gratitude, the lack of gratitude. My words often haunt me in the books I write. Recognizing in my own heart these seeds of whining, complaining, and lack of gratitude; it’s obnoxious. It’s insidious, but it just gets such a grip on our lives. I found that one of the things I had to do repeatedly is to confess my lack of gratitude, my whining, my complaining about little things and big things. I have to say, “Lord, forgive me.” I have to just identify when the sin of ingratitude is there and then ask Him for the grace of a thankful heart.

Barbara: Yes. I agree.

Nancy: There’s something else that struck me as I was just thinking about this subject over a period of months, and that is the consequences of an ungrateful heart—not only what it does to me but also the influence that it has on people around me. Think about it: We really don’t like to be around complaining, whining people. What kind of impact do they have on the culture, on the environment?

Barbara: Exactly. It just doesn’t feel good. At the very core, it’s just not pleasant to be around someone who’s complaining. I have a real tendency when I’m around someone who’s complaining, whether it’s a cashier in a checkout line who’s griping about something or someone, I want to get away from it. It doesn’t feel good, and I don’t like it.

I think we forget that we look like that or sound like that when we do it, too. We feel justified when we complain because whatever the circumstance was was so wrong, and we were so slighted. I think we feel justified when we complain, but I think we forget how it sounds and how it looks and how it comes across.

Nancy: It’s easier to see it in others than to see it in ourselves.

Barbara: Oh, much easier, as is true with most sin.

Nancy: Some people I know are so obsessive about getting rid of germs. They’re always walking around with a can of Lysol, spraying bacteria away off their kitchen counters, whatever, but it strikes me that the heart of ingratitude and an ungrateful spirit is really as obnoxious and as dangerous and damaging to the environment as any of those germs could be.

Barbara: I think you’re right.

Nancy: So in our homes, we want to get rid of ingratitude. You talked about the importance you placed on this with your children. You have six children, and they were all little at one time. How did you deal with this issue of ungratefulness, and how did you help your children cultivate a thankful spirit?

Barbara: Honestly, I don’t think we did a really great job, being grateful and being thankful is a choice of the heart, and as parents, you don’t control your kids’ hearts. Now, you can influence them and direct them. We had them memorize the verse in Philippians that says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” They memorized it, but they didn’t like it.

Nancy: They grumbled about that?

Barbara: Yes. They grumbled about it. We would remind them when they were complaining, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” and they’d just roll their eyes like, “Oh, brother.” We tried to do that influencing; we tried to do that directing. We would correct, and we would train. But it really comes down to a matter of the heart choice. I could make my children cooperate on the outside. We really emphasized saying thank you for everything, and I had my kids write thank-you notes for every gift they ever received.

Nancy: Oh, that’s a lost art.

Barbara: It is, isn’t it?

Nancy: You don’t hear that so much.

Barbara: Actually, some of mine still do it. The training stuck with some of them, which is really fun for me to see.

So I did all of those external training kinds of things, but I realized that all of my efforts weren’t really going to produce a grateful heart because ultimately it was their choice to be grateful in response to what God has done for them. So I could only go so far as a parent in training my children to be grateful.

I think what we did was good. I'm not saying that we didn't do good things or that we didn't do a good job. I just realized in the process that I could only go so far in training my children to be thankful.

Nancy: Of course, one of the important things has to be the modeling that the parents do. Whether they’re modeling complaining and a negative, griping spirit, or they’re modeling gratitude, and that’s got to be contagious with children one way or the other.

Barbara: Yes, it does. There’s so much that a parent has to model. It can become discouraging at times, but, yes, our kids are watching us. They’re watching everything that we do; they’re watching that we say, and they’re mimicking most of it. So if a parent is not working on his or her own heart of gratitude, it’s going to be communicated to the kids.

Nancy: We’re living in a time when there’s a lot to whine about. There’s a lot of concerns to have—house foreclosures and international events and terrorism. There are a lot of things I find that people are really dealing with—fear, with uncertainty, with depression. I find there’s just this kind of emotional low that a lot of people are experiencing today. And when you look at the circumstances, there are a lot of reasons for that. How do you think personally and as families and as children of God, most importantly, in the midst of a negative environment, difficult times, how can we encourage one another to have thankful hearts in the midst of times that aren’t really all that happy, all that great?

Barbara: I think we have to be more diligent about what comes into our thinking because I think a steady diet of the news, whether it’s from television or the Internet or newspaper or whatever, it can lead one to be depressed and feel fearful and worried and anxious. If that’s not balanced, or at least have some kind of a counter attack with the truth that God is in control and that no matter how bad it looks or how bad it may get, because it may get much worse before it gets better.

God is still sovereign. He's still in control. He has a plan for my life. He's put me where He's put me on this planet. He put me here in this nation at this time, and He has a plan for my life. When I focus on that, then it makes all of those negative things that are swirling around not quite so important, because God is bigger than all of that.

So I think individually we need to monitor what we’re taking in to our brains. You talk about that in your book about how important the mind is. It does start in the heart, but the mind is influencing the emotions of the heart.

If we’re focusing on the negative, then our heart is going to become fearful. But if we’re focusing on God’s providence and His sovereignty and His plan, then our heart is much more inclined to trust and then be grateful.

Nancy: That’s really the whole concept of renewing our minds according to the truth of God’s Word.

That’s why one of the things that I really discipline myself to do is to get more intake of the Word of God into my mind than I do from the external culture. When I look around at the very serious condition of things in our world, the thing that helps me a lot . . .

If I really need a lift in my heart, I go to the book of Revelation. I look at the battle. I look at war going on. I look at the times that seems Satan is winning, but then I go to the last four chapters. I see that the Beast is conquered and captured. The Antichrist is captured and thrown into Lake of Fire. The Saints, those who have been faithful, those who have endured, are rescued from this present world. There's a new heaven and a new earth. There's no more pain, no more death, no more mourning or crying. You just join with those in heaven who are saying, "Hallelujah." The Lord the God, the Almighty, reigns. So there’s that recalibrating of our minds and our hearts.

Barbara: I agree with you.

Nancy: And as you said, to focus on the things that are true and lovely and of good report, the things that are sure even when everything around us seems to be unsure and unsteady.

Barbara: Yes. I really agree with you. I think what we put in our minds is crucial. I think we need that in our culture because there is so much to complain about—on the surface, looking at the news reports, there is a lot to be concerned about. But we need to discipline our minds to be thankful and to be grateful and put into our thinking the things that are right and true.

Nancy: I know myself that I can’t just think about gratitude once, or just hear a program like this, or read a book on thankfulness and then all of a sudden have my thinking change. Transformation is a process. It takes place over the course of time. If you do anything day after day over a period of weeks, it becomes more a part of your thinking.

Barbara: If I remember right, you wrote about a woman who did that in her marriage for thirty days and focused on being grateful for thirty days and what a difference it made.

Nancy: We encourage women all the time to do this with their husbands. They don’t have to tell their husbands, but to do a 30-day husband encouragement challenge, focusing every day on one thing they appreciate about their husband and thanking him for it, expressing that to him.

Barbara: I think it’s a great idea.

Nancy: Oh my goodness. Over the years we’ve received probably thousands of responses from women who’ve taken that 30-day husband encouragement challenge and have said it just changes the way they see their husband. Usually before that thirty days is over, it changes the way the husband sees the wife, too, just because of injecting that attitude of gratitude into the marriage.

Barbara: I think it’s a great idea, Nancy.

I have realized as a new empty nester, when I don’t have the children to focus on, how easy it is to become even more particular or more picky and to notice those flaws in my husband more than I did when I had the kids around. The kids took so much of my focus and now he’s the only one, so my husband gets all of it. If I’m not careful, I can become critical.

So I think your 30-day challenge to wives, to focus on what is good and right about their husbands, is fabulous.

Nancy: On ReviveOurHearts.com they can get more information about how to do that 30-day challenge. We’ll actually send an email every day for thirty days if people sign up for that with practical hints on how to infuse gratitude into your marriage.

Barbara, I came across a number of very moving illustrations of how people made the choice to give thanks when it was really, really hard, when their eyes were full of tears. Invariably, when you talk about this subject of thankfulness or gratefulness, that’s one of the things that comes up—because life really does have hard circumstances. It’s a fallen, broken world, and we’re not in the end of Revelation yet.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: I know that you and your family have shared in a lot of tears. Yet you have found in the midst of that, that gratitude really is a powerful weapon against the enemy. Tell us a little bit about that circumstance and how gratitude has played into it.

Barbara: Our daughter had her first baby. She had a little girl. Her name was Molly. Molly was born without any previous indication of anything being wrong, but it became apparent pretty quickly that Molly had something wrong with her. She had an aneurism in her brain, and she only lived seven days.

Those seven days were wonderful; they were powerful; they were heart-wrenching, difficult beyond imagination. But in the midst of it, one of the things that we all chose to do (our kids Rebecca and Jacob, Dennis and myself, Jacob’s parents, Bill and Pam, and all of the siblings who came and went during that week), we all chose to focus on the good things that God was doing in the midst of this.

We expressed gratitude for even giving Molly to us in the first place. Nobody regrets that she came, even though she was only here for seven days.

We expressed gratitude for God’s sovereignty and that He knew what He was doing and that He had good plans for us and He had good plans for Molly’s life, and that was why He gave her to us.

Just a few months after Molly had died, it was a particularly difficult time for my daughter and son-in-law as they approached Thanksgiving and thinking about, “How could we be grateful for what God has done this year?” I made my own list of about a dozen things that I was grateful for, and I emailed it to my daughter. I said, “Maybe this will kind of help prime the pump," as we’d been talking about.

One of the things that I remember writing on that list of twelve things was, “I’m so grateful we’re mourning the loss of only a child and not a child and a husband. The list went on to twelve or more things. And when I finished it, I knew I hadn’t exhausted it all. I knew there were more, but I finished the list and sent it to her and just said, “I want to encourage you, as difficult as this Thanksgiving season will be for you, to make a list of all those wonderful things that God did lest we forget how He showed up—because He really did show up in those seven days of Molly’s life.”

Nancy: When you made that list, when you give thanks in all things, it doesn’t take away the pain or the loss.

Barbara: No, it doesn’t.

Nancy: What does it do?

Barbara: What I have found that it does is it brings balance.

I think sometimes we think that gratitude and thankfulness is going to be like a magic wand. If I just say, “Thank you, God,” then all of my negative feelings are going to go away. Well, if the negative feelings are loss and grief because you’ve had a child die, God wants you to feel those things.

Nancy: And God feels those things.

Barbara: And God feels those things. Those are genuine. He’s not wanting to wave the magic wand and have everything be perfect.

What gratitude does is it puts it all into perspective. Gratitude brings balance to those emotions of grief and loss and sadness, and it puts next to the grief and loss and sadness joy and peace and hope for the future. Hope was one of the things we hung onto the hardest during the week of Molly’s life because we know for a fact that we will all see her again, and that hope is because of the Scripture.

When you give thanks, you’re focusing on those things that are true in God’s Word, and it balances and puts in perspective the grief and the loss that you’re currently going through.

Nancy: I know we have a lot of listeners who are going through some difficult journeys right now in a marriage, in a financial situation, in a family relationship with a prodigal son or daughter—we have listeners who are crying themselves to sleep at night over a son or daughter or grandchild who is far from the Lord—some physical diagnosis, a terminal illness that a listener or loved one is facing. There is no, as you say, magic want that can just make all that pain go away this side of eternity.

But there is an attitude of gratitude that can give perspective and can be a journey to joy even in the midst of the valley of loss or death or suffering.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Let God recalibrate your heart. Let Him bring you to that place where you do what we are told to do in the Scripture, and that is to abound in thanksgiving. That just gives me the picture of a creek or stream or river overflowing its banks.

Whatever the circumstances are, the call is to choose gratitude, to abound in thanksgiving. When we do, as God’s children, when the world looks at us, and they see that we have lost a child or a grandchild or have this very difficult circumstance, and they see us in the midst of the tears lifting our eyes upward and focusing on the Lord and saying, “God, You are still good, and I worship You,” we make the gospel believable.

We point people to Christ. That’s the point of it all—to point people to Christ. The attitude of gratitude will do that.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Barbara Rainey about such an important topic—gratitude. When you develop a habit of being thankful, it will transform your life.

They’ve been talking about Nancy’s book—one of her core messages—called Choosing Gratitude. You can get a copy at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy: I just love this subject; it is so life-changing and life-giving.

Now, we’re in a mode of preparation here are Revive Our Hearts. Our program today is helping us prepare for Thanksgiving. And it’s not too early to start preparing for the Advent season.

Dannah: That's right, because, Nancy, you've written a brand-new thirty-one-day devotional that we can use throughout the month of December to help us celebrate Christmas in a more meaningful way. We want to get this study into your hands as soon as possible. This brand-new Advent devotional is called Consider Jesus.

Each day as you go through this study, you’ll be reading a Bible passage about Jesus. Then Nancy will write a devotional for you each day. And you’ll be given ways to pray and an opportunity to write out your response to that day’s devotional.

Nancy: We’d love to send you a copy of this special resource that will take you through the month of December—it's thirty-one days. When you donate any amount to support Revive Our Hearts, we’ll be glad to send you a copy as our way of saying "thank you" for your investment in this ministry.

You can ask for it when you make a donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to let us know that you'd like a copy of the Consider Jesus Advent devotional.

Dannah: There's one more thing we need to say about these devotionals. Thath is this: they would make fantastic Christmas gifts. In fact, one listener wrote about last year’s Advent devotional and she said:

I was able to give away thirty-five Advent devotionals—most of them at a neighborhood evangelistic Christmas gathering. [I have chills just reading this.] Thank you for this new resource. It caused my heart to sing this Christmas like never before. I’ve been praying God will use it to draw women to treasure His Son.

So we will send you one copy per household for your gift of any size. But if you want to follow this woman’s great idea and want to order more copies, just call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: Now, Dannah, along with preparing for a meaningful Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I think many of us also need to prepare for opportunities that lie ahead to over-indulge.

Dannah: Oh-oh.

Nancy: So how do we know when we ’re joyfully celebrating? How much is too much? When does celebrating through food become too much?

Next week we will address these questions. Asheritah Ciuciu will be here to talk about her book, Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction. Please be sure to be back Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you make gratitude a lifestyle. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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