Carol and I have a very good friend who has faced many challenges in life—financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual. She is a single mother who (in our opinion) has done a remarkable job at raising her daughter to know and serve the Lord Jesus. Our friend works at a job where her supervisors take advantage of her, knowing she won’t complain since she desperately needs her job. And in recent years she has had the added responsibility of caring for her aging parents. But if you were to meet her in any given context, you would seldom hear her complain. It’s just the opposite. She regularly expresses praise to the Lord Jesus and His kindness to her. She is a THANKFUL person!

Not long ago she approached me and said, “Pastor Harry, do you have a “gratitude journal.” I smiled and asked a dumb question. I said, “What’s a gratitude journal?” She looked at me as if I was from another planet. Her facial expression said it all, “YOU…DON’T…KNOW…WHAT a GRATITUDE JOURNAL is?” I confessed my ignorance, even though the title should have made the meaning obvious. A “gratitude journal” is a place for recording things for which one is grateful to God. And you won’t be surprised that my friend challenged me to start one and keep it for at least 30 days. 

I am recommending that you do the same. But don’t go on my recommendation (or my friend’s) without doing some biblical reflection. Scripture is filled with exhortations to be thankful, to praise God, and to be a grateful people. In fact, gratitude has a lot to do with the care of your soul. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul:

And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:15-16)

It is important to notice that Paul is concerned about the condition of “hearts.” Similar to the wisdom writer in Proverbs 4:23 he appeals for a supernatural condition to take place and then tells his readers how it will happen. Or to put this text in the larger context of “guarding our hearts,” Paul is reminding his readers that God empowers us to guard our hearts by intentionally pursuing a life of gratitude. Specifically, he tells us to “be thankful” (v. 15) and to “be grateful” (v. 16). When we are, the peace of the Messiah will “control our hearts.”

What strikes me about this exhortation is that Paul does not speak into a spiritual vacuum. Apparently these Colossian believers were anxious over the distractions caused by increasing false teaching and persecution. The believers (a lot like you) were under attack. The condition of their souls was being threatened. And in a surprising twist on how to defend them, Paul calls for…GRATITUDE! 

In all honesty my heart hasn't always been at peace with the Savior. I’ve complained to myself (and to the Lord) about His lack of acting on my agenda. I’ve been frustrated with people and events. (Do I really have to go into the specifics?) My guess is that many of you can identify with where I’ve been. And then in the midst of my grumbling, I remembered my friend’s challenge to start a “gratitude journal.” 

If you were to start “journaling” today, what would you include? Carol and I discussed what we would include in our journal. We both agreed that we have been showered with “forgiveness”—the Lord’s forgiveness. He pours out grace upon grace, even after we spend way too much time grumbling about our circumstances. You might want to add a favorite verse or a song that moves your thoughts in a Godward direction. Add to those things gratitude for daily provisions, health, loved ones, freedom, and thousands of other things. 

One precautionary word is needed. The issue isn’t whether you start a “gratitude journal” or not. The reality is that you and I are in a battle. It’s ruthless. And our hearts are vulnerable. So GUARD…YOUR…HEART! And one of the ways you can protect your soul is by intentionally expressing gratitude to the Lord.

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