Cultivating Contentment: The Gratitude Challenge

Kim Sullivan

January 28, 2016

We have a special holiday to celebrate thanksgiving, but it is even better to make gratitude a daily habit all year. Our sinful nature naturally wants to complain about everything. We are not naturally grateful by default. "Thank You" can be hard words to learn and use, much less be worn as an attitude. However, there are some daily habits that families can use to train our responses toward showing more thankfulness. And gratitude is the fountain of contentment.

Set up a gratitude jar

Use an old glass vase or a mason jar. You could decorate it or keep it simple. Place the jar somewhere easy for everyone to reach, next to a pen and pieces of colorful paper. When someone remembers something for which to give thanks, have them write what they are grateful for on the piece of paper, fold it, and place it in the jar. After a while (or on Thanksgiving), pass the jar around and have each person pull out a gratitude testimony. You could even have a quota of one gratitude paper a day per person. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of writing things down, you’ll be surprised how often you will find yourself jotting things down and tossing them into the jar. God's word instructs us to remember with gratitude, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…”(Deuteronomy 5:15. Writing testimonies of God’s goodness down helps us to remember what God has done for us. This brings honor and glorifies Him.

Choose a gratitude target

Select a person or family to whom you can show your gratitude each month. Perhaps you could make a meal, homemade cards, or offer an act of service to them. Let them know specifically what you are grateful for in your lives. For instance, you could honor the parent’s boss, or your pastors, or a great aunt or grandparent. Record what you’ve done in a special journal with pictures and details about the project. The Bible specifically tells us to give honor where honor is due (Romans 13:7). Being intentional with this habit as a family will create good habits and cause everyone to have a happier disposition. A nice bonus might be found in this: I find that it is difficult to hold a grudge against someone while planning a way to bless them and finding things about them for which I can be grateful. Perhaps your child has had a difficult soccer coach or teacher. Planning a gratitude event for that person can change every person involved.

Match complaints with thanks

Install a house rule that, for every complaint spoken aloud, there must be a spoken word of gratitude. Give the kids the right to call you out on your complaints as well. Attitudes change when we allow gratitude to be the rule over our hearts instead of disappointment and grumbling. Paul instructed the churches to “do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Phil. 2:14), and “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:18).

Living out gratitude intentionally will change the atmosphere of your home. Looking for things to be grateful for takes some effort, but the discipline of it leads to the peaceful fruit of righteousness, and to great joy. Give your family a gratitude challenge today, you’ll be grateful for the results!

About the author — Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is a writer with a background in everything from homeschooling to nonprofit management. She has raised three children each of whom are successful in their own unique way. Recently, Kim has done the most radical and risky thing she has ever done…she moved 700 miles from her suburban Chicago home and everything familiar to her and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is working on a brand-new website and blogs at Journey to Epiphany. She is also writing a book about her adventures in following Jesus.

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