Yesterday I stumbled upon two really meaningful articles on Facebook, one on gratitude and the other on jealousy, written by authors that I, along with millions of others, follow and respect.
As my eyes and mind took in their wise words, I knew it was no accident. I had been swimming in both emotions all week following the birth of my grandson, my only daughter’s firstborn baby.
For most of every day, I have been overwhelmed with indescribable gratitude for this beautiful little boy and the way he has swollen my heart to bursting. For witnessing my daughter and son-in-law be the most amazing and tender parents. For getting to watch his face for hours on end, praying for him while I hold him sleeping on my chest, and just melting at all the cute faces he makes. For a chance to be the kind of grandma I never had.
At the same time, the experience churned up some unexpected jealousy for the benefits my daughter has as a new mom that I did not. Doctors didn’t lay her immediately on my tummy for an hour after birth and advise me to have lots of “skin-to-skin time” with her. When I struggled with breastfeeding, I didn’t have an army of lactation consultants and online mommy blogs to turn to for help (I called the one source available and they never called me back). No one had yet invented miraculous wraps so I could “wear” my baby and recreate her experience in the womb, our bodies moving in rhythm after her birth.
I didn’t like the jealous feelings. I felt cheated by the opportunities I never had with her, but at the same time I had been blessed with this tiny little boy to love, so who was I to feel anything negative at all?
After I read the blogs, I saw a picture on Instagram of a handmade wooden sign that read, “Breathe in Your grace, breath out Your praise.” And early this morning in church, just 12 hours later, we sang these words:
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
I started to cry. And I was reminded that nothing that spoke truth to me in the past two days—not the blogs or the sign or the song—were by accident. They were God seeing my heart, knowing it was both bursting with joy and a little bit hurting, and helping me sort out the proper places in my spirit for gratitude and jealousy.
“Breathe in Your grace, breath out Your praise.”
The answer to jealousy is gratitude. The response to gratitude is praise.
I have found this to be true over and over again in my life. Sometimes, when my emotions are heightened by radical experiences (like the miraculous birth of a child), I stumble over some unexpected negative emotion (like jealousy). But God always brings me gently back to gratitude and praise to Him for all the things He’s gifted me, including my seesawing emotions.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:17).
Whatever I do. Whatever I think. Whatever I feel. Out of the gratitude and awe of God’s gift of life by Jesus’ death on the cross for me, I find that I cannot help but praise Him for His love for me, and thank Him for all the sweet blessings in my life. Thank Him even for the hardships and trials, because from each one He has wrought something new in me: a better grip on my heart, a quicker way to move past pity to praise, a better way to cope with the up and down and sideways movements of my life.
He saw the wrestling in my heart about my unmet desires, my feeling cheated. So He started talking to me, reaching me, teaching me. First, with the blogs. Then, the song lyrics. Then, the worship at church. And, always, His words, written as love letters to each of us so that we can know how much He loves us and that He has the prescription for every heart issue and life issue we will face.
The truth is, most of us won’t get tripped up over momentous or traumatic events. Instead, it’s the everyday struggles that steer us off a path of gratitude and onto the rocky soil of negative emotions like jealousy, fear, frustration, anger, criticism, lust, greed, impatience.
I remember my afflictions and my wandering…
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning… (Lamentations 3:19-23)
We recognize it, our ugliness. Then we take it to Him and He turns our hearts to gratitude.
Thank Him even for the hardships and trials, because from each one He has wrought something new in me: a better grip on my heart, a quicker way to move past pity to praise, a better way to cope with the up and down and sideways movements of my life.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
Every gift. Including the gifts of my negative emotions. They are human, yet God calls me in the midst of them to step out of them, and be faithful to Him even in the muck. To take His hand and let Him gently guide me onto firm and thankful ground. It’s not something that happens just once or twice, but over and over as we navigate our days of singlehood, marriage, motherhood, work, lost dreams… and all the crooked paths those roads can spawn.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
In every thing. Everything. The good and the bad. The productive and the healthy. The jealousy and the gratitude. Give thanks. He’s in charge. He understands. He offers mercy and grace. He rescues and redeems. He heals.
And we praise.