Thanksgiving brings our high-speed life to a pause. We ponder and mentally list our blessings with gratitude. But if we’re struggling and plodding through disappointments, frustrations, and even persecution, learning how to change a bad attitude into gratitude can be difficult but not impossible.
When I was a new believer, I thought I had to sing praises for every horrible thing that happened to me. I thought it was part of being thankful. It didn’t make sense, so my heart and head were at odds. I felt like a faithless failure, and the shame made me run from God instead of to God. Scripture, however, showed me how to sustain a grateful heart in the midst of struggles.
Find a Role Model
I have Jesus as a role model, but I have to confess; Jesus isn’t my only role model. He was sinless! Talk about raising the bar!
I needed a few imperfect people that made perfect decisions during imperfect times. I’m sure Jesus understood; after all, the Bible is loaded with such people.
The Apostle Paul is one of my Biblical heroes. What a role model. His candid letters offer life-changing comfort because “he gets us!”
Paul’s “real” about unattractive emotions, but he knows how to remain in Jesus, move in faith, and share God’s unchangeable message of hope.
Face-to-Face with Disappointment
The church of Thessalonica was mainly a Gentile church. Paul wrote 1st Thessalonians while in Corinth with Silas and Timothy. These men had a vested interest in Thessalonica since they had ministered in this prominent, commercially-driven city.
Paul was detained from returning to Thessalonica. His heart ached with disappointment. He wanted to encourage this newly-established church in faithfulness. He wanted them to continue to grow in faith—despite difficulties.
“But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us,” 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 New American Standard Bible
Face-to-Face with Frustration
The 21st church would quickly encourage Paul with a text, “Don’t worry; trust God.” Perhaps they would follow-up with a tweet, “Paul, God will meet their needs.”
Paul was aware of these truths and more, but he passionately loved God’s people. His love overwhelmed him with concern. Sound familiar? Have you ever loved someone that much?
Paul paints a picture of his affection by comparing his ministry to a nursing mother or devoted father. We hear his raw emotions and frustration in these words.
“… when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain,” 1 Thessalonians 3:5 NASB.
Face-to-Face with Persecution
Religious groups persecuted the church of Thessalonica killing many believers, but the church remained faithful. Where there’s spiritual growth, there’s gratitude; where there is gratitude, there’s faithfulness.
Every challenge offers us an opportunity to grow and change. Deep down, we’re not face-to-face with disappointments, frustrations or persecution—we’re face-to-face with ourselves. Are we willing to grow and change so we can be transformed into His image?
“But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8 NASB
Paul found joy and gratitude knowing Thessalonica’s faith was strong. He received God’s faithful reassurance. God was big enough to care for both Paul and the newly-established church.
Change a Bad Attitude into Gratitude
When we pursue a grateful heart, and when we’re willing to grow and change, it will force us to get “face to face” with ourselves. We don’t have to embrace struggles with songs of praise, but we can embrace hope. God will be faithful throughout the struggle because disappointments, frustrations, and persecution can never rob us of grace.
As imperfect people, we can choose perfect decisions during imperfect times. We can choose grace, and grace will fill our hearts with gratitude.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). . LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.