My 153rd Lesson on Being Grateful

Psalm 103

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. 2 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. 3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 4 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The kids and I have been memorizing this psalm for the past few months. (There are many more verses. I just put the first few on here today.) It was supposed to be our summer memory work, but it has bled over into the beginning of the school year. It bothers this super-anal woman that we didn't reach our goal time-wise, but I keep reminding myself that that is not the point. We will continue to add to it bit by bit until we've hidden this portion of God's Word in our hearts.

Since we've been working on it for quite a while, I have said these first few verses countless times over and over as we've practiced aloud. The problem is, I haven't always put into practice these first couple of verses...the whole praising the Lord with all that I am and my whole heart kind of thing. I've shared before that I tend to have a very critical and negative spirit about life in general, and I'm just so convicted about how that does not bring glory to God in any way. I have spent so much of the past few weeks focused on what we don't have and complaining about all the little annoyances of life. And before anyone says how that's only human, I must say that, yes, that is human. It's part of our sinful nature, and that's no excuse before a holy God.

I often think and was reminded this past week in Sunday School (or Life Groups or whatever snazzy name we have for it this week), that even if my life on earth were filled with suffering every single day, I'd still have more to be thankful for than I ever deserve. The fact that I have a relationship with my loving, Heavenly Father and the hope of eternity with Him is much more than I deserve and should be more than enough to fill my heart with praise and gratitude each and every day of my life.

Through modern technology, specifically all these blogs I read, the Lord shows me everyday that I have an abundance of other things to be thankful for as well. How can I feel sorry for myself when I see and read about people like this? Yet, I still chose to swim in my pool of self-pity. How could I continue to be perturbed with my children when I read about those whose children are dying or extremely sick? How could I complain about not having enough money to go out to eat or buy clothes for my baby when I see these people who could not feed their starving children anything? I'll tell you why...selfishness and sin. The enemy trips us up so many times, especially those of us who live in the abundance of America, by getting us focused totally and completely on ourselves. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this same thing at least 34 times, but it seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I whine and complain, and then God reminds me of how blessed I really am.

I do recount all my earthly blessings to God, myself and even all of you from time to time, but God has really impacted me this morning with the fact that, though those blessings are wonderful and I should be thankful, what I'm most blessed by is just Him. I have a King, a Father, a Creator who forgives me time and time and time again. He not only forgives me, but He allows me to come to Him at anytime and lay down all my burdens, both big and small. I get to lay my burdens down at the feet of a Savior who cares and understands. He never says He's too busy or that He doesn't really care today or that it's too small for Him to spend time on it or that it's too big for Him to handle. He always promises to not only care, but to take care of it. It goes without saying that He may not take care of it according to my wisdom or timing, but even that is a wonderful blessing, because, frankly, my wisdom and timing (and overuse of commas) stink. Plus, I have the peace and hope of knowing He really has already taken care of my one and only true problem - sin. It's done, defeated, and has no authority in my life anymore.

So, why do I fret? Why do the dental bills and car repairs and field trip costs and future college tuition get to me? Why do I get so bent out of shape over weeds in my yard or trying to plan a menu for my family or cramming clothes and the other stuff that comes with one more kid into an already full space? Why do my kids make me want to pull my hair out when they're just being kids? And then why do I cry when my hair comes out by the handful after I have a baby? Why do I yell at my husband, whose faults are very tiny compared to those of most people (myself included)? Why do I erupt when our savings account balance drops lower and lower?

I feel Paul's pain so well as I struggle with this sinful nature.

Romans 7: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

But I must come to the same conclusion that Paul did. Praise be to Jesus for rescuing me from this sinful nature and for the hope that one day we will all be free from this earthly body, which is a slave to sin, and will live in glory with Him forever. Heaven is not about pearly gates and streets of gold and huge mansions. It is about living in perfect unity with our Lord without the struggle of sin, of beholding Him in all His glory and never again being distracted with selfish desires or thoughts. I know, as long as I'm on this earth, I will have days when I will fail and my focus will be on the wrong things. But it's not the end and God always, gently, in His gracious way, brings me back to that wonderful truth.

Now, I will be counting on all of you to remind me, in your sweet, gentle way, of this truth in a few weeks when, God willing, I will have a newborn, a jealous 2-year-old, two older kids who need help with homework, a husband who does like to eat from time to time, and I'm sleep-deprived with milk squirting out of crazy places and a sagging mid-section that won't even come close to squeezing into any pair of pants in my closet. In my nonexistent spare time, I will blog about how hard it all is and how I'm about to lose my mind, and that will be your cue to leave sweet, encouraging comments, send "just thinking about you" emails, and call me on the phone to be sure everyone in our house is still around. Look at me, already being selfish again. I actually prefer to call this just being realistic and prepared for my inevitable hormone-induced breakdown. And, if you're lucky, it will all go much more smoothly than I'm anticipating, and I won't have to ramble again about how God is teaching me to quit being Amy-focused and start being Christ-focused. But don't count on it. I will, however, try to intersperse any whining I might to do with photos of an adorable newborn baby.


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