August 14, 2018 was the saddest day of my life. My son Marco took his own life on that day. That left me with an atomic desert in my heart and mind. This tragic event started a countdown of days without my son here on earth. On the 63rd day of my count I received, at his mother’s insistence, my son’s death certificate. I did not want to read it but upon reading it I saw that my son Marco was alive for 52 minutes and for the first time I had peace about my son.
On the 67th day of my count, I woke up in Apostle Martin’s house as a guest in Argentina. At breakfast time Apostle Martin tells me “you know that the Lord came to me and told me that he was with your son the last minutes of his life and reconciled him and took him home…” Hearing that, I started crying and went to my room where I had a beautiful conversation with the Lord regarding everything that was going on in my life. That conversation allowed me to see a dimension of God that I did not know.
Leaving Argentina and going back to Mexico, my journey of learning to “live without Marco” continued. The following months were an emotional rollercoaster; I had good times and very painful times. My first holidays came and I did not know how to handle them. On December 27, after Christmas with my second son, I woke up in pain and protesting in my prayer. I said to the Lord, “I can’t go on living like this,” to which he replied, “Thank me”, and my response was of a bitter protest. For the second time I heard, “Thank me” and I complained again. The third time the Lord told me “Thank me” I replied, “I will do it out of obedience but not because I feel it”. And I began to list the reasons why I could thank God for my son’s life. I began to thank him for my son’s life, for the time I had him on earth and for what I learned through his life. In about 20 minutes without realizing it, a tremendous emotional burden was lifted and I was comforted by the LOVE of God. It was as if a dark cloud in my heart lifted. When I finished giving thanks I realized what had happened and it awakened in me a desire to know why gratitude or thanksgiving caused that in my heart. That day my journey began of truly knowing the way of gratitude.
As I studied gratitude through the Bible, I realized many things that gratitude does in the heart of man and in the heavenly places. I understood why the scripture tells you to give thanks in everything and for everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20). I did not realize that giving thanks is mentioned so many times in the Bible and that it is a powerful weapon in the life of the believer. A believer can use gratitude in an extraordinary way to live a full life. Today I am going to share with you a few things that I have learned and continue to learn about “gratitude”.
Gratitude is not optional:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.“
According to this passage gratitude cannot be “optional” for the believer because the scripture mentions that it is God’s will for the believer. Why does God ask us and give us such a commandment? Because of the benefits it gives you as a believer, even when you don’t understand it, your feelings are focused on the negative or your pain. Well, as we study this subject you will see and understand why it is a commandment for the believer.
To give thanks to God is to surrender to his sovereignty. Psalm 100:4
Psalm 100:4 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name”.
In the law, “thank offerings” were optional but the psalmist David, in this passage understood the proper order to enter into His presence. The first requirement to enter His presence is to “enter His gates with thanksgiving”. Entering His presence with thanksgiving is the equivalent of being surrendered to God and not bringing one’s own agenda.
When I began to give thanks that December 27, it was the equivalent of surrendering into his hands. I brought nothing to the altar but my thanksgiving. That allowed me to experience surrender and not remorse accompanied by bitterness. While I was clinging to the “whys and if only” in my mind regarding my son’s death, I was not surrendering to God and His comfort. When I thanked him I was able to leave the land of the “whys and if only” and enter into his presence. It befits every believer to be in God’s presence with a surrendered heart. A heart without gratitude is kept out of the innermost part of what God desires for it. It is not that God leaves you, only that through ingratitude you are unwilling to hear what God has for you. By practicing gratitude one opens their heart to be able to hear and receive from God what he desires for our lives.
Gratitude allows you to receive and appropriate what God desires for you.
Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving;
In my journey of pain I learned that giving thanks was the equivalent of opening my arms to receive God’s embrace of comfort.
I experienced and remained in God’s consolation and when I began to thank him, His consolation brought me peace. I experienced that peace several times in my process, the day I read my son’s death certificate, the day the Apostle gave me the word in his house; but the problem is that my feelings of pain and my days of loneliness were again suffocating that peace and comfort from God. Not exercising gratitude allowed my thoughts to be focused on my pain and not on God. On December 27th through gratitude, I allowed God to embrace and comfort me. That day I learned that in light of the pain and circumstances of life, gratitude is a tool to manage my emotions and remain in His comfort or provision for my life.
Gratitude focuses you on the positive and helps you take ownership of your supply.
Ingratitude or being neutral (which eventually is the same as ingratitude) will cloud your vision in such a way that you will not be able to see the circumstances of life in the perspective that God desires. The only thing you will be able to see is your giant, your limitations, your mountain, your burden or your pain.
God’s comfort was always there within my reach, but my thoughts were focused on my loss and my pain. Every day when I woke up I would think of my loss and the “what if”. Those thoughts were like a paint brush that colored my feelings and painted what kind of day I was going to have. Generally, my day focused on my feelings and the “what ifs” was going to be a gloomy, downcast and ruled by my grief and emotions. This focus robbed me of my passion for God and my strength to fight or move forward.
After my first time using gratitude and having my heart comforted through it, I learned that I could use it every day to manage my emotions. Every day I woke up I began to thank God for my son and refused to allow my mind to start focusing on the “ifs” or my pain. I realized that gratitude forced me to focus on God’s goodness, His works in my life and my son’s life. I had to list or think of reasons why I could give God thanks for my son. So you can see how gratitude forced me to focus on what could help me and not on my mountains that were in front of me.
Other things gratitude taught me:
- It allowed me to be lifted up to see things in God’s perspective.
- I realized that gratitude is an expression of faith that brings the Kingdom of God down to earth.
- Gratitude frees your faith to be expressed.
- It becomes a shield of faith for your life.
- Conditions your heart to see God’s way or his answers to the challenges in your life.
- Gratitude is powerful for your prayer life
- Gratitude can be a way of decreeing God’s answers in your prayer.
- Gratitude keeps your heart humble and open to God’s direction.
- Gratitude is an excellent repellent for bitterness and doubts in your life.
- Gratitude is a tool to fill you with His Spirit in your daily life.
- Gratitude is a very important part of living your life to the fullest as a child of God.
What ingratitude does: everything we mentioned but on the opposite side. If gratitude frees your faith, ingratitude extinguishes your faith, if gratitude helps you appropriate God’s comfort, ingratitude robs you of God’s comfort etc. These are too many things to mention in this short study.
Conclusion: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. If you make gratitude a lifestyle you will have a life connected to who you are and what you have been given. You will live down your blessings and provisions at all times…blessings.”