Be Joyful (Practise Gratitude)
(from the Leaders' Nook)


Paul's charge to be joyful
The book of Philippians is rightly called Paul's epistle of joy. In every chapter Paul assures his friends in Philippi that he is joyful in spite of his circumstances, and he charges them to be joyful also.

Is joy necessary? One leader recently shared with me that joy has always seemed like a luxury-it's nice if you have it but it is possible to soldier through without it. Her experience is hardly unique, for many leaders seem to lose their grip on joy in the effort to be productive in the fray of unceasing demands, criticism and stretching circumstances.

I'm intrigued that Paul doesn't hesitate to command his friends at Philippi to rejoice. "Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice always! It is a safeguard for you (3:1, 4:4)." A safeguard is a precautionary measure, something which protects us against harm.

Entitlement
So what happens if we don't rejoice? Life gets heavy. We get cranky. And entitlement creeps in. A nagging sense that we should be more appreciated for all the hard work we do. Inner grumbling over all we have to put up with. Buying into the belief that we have a right to more. More respect. More honour. More salary. More gratitude. Entitlement breeds dissatisfaction and promotes greed. And it steals joy.

Joy is a gift, a response, and a discipline. As the second fruit of the Spirit, it is nourished and ripened as we stay connected with our Source.

Gratitude
Practising gratitude is one of the most practical and easy ways to nourish joy. In contrast to entitlement, gratitude recognizes that everything we have is a gift. The psalmist says, You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every little thing (Ps 145:16). Though God does not give us everything we desire, I've learned (and am learning) to echo John Eldredge's response to this promise when he says: "Not always, not on demand, but certainly more than we deserve." (The Journey of Desire)

Practising gratitude as a discipline is a simple but powerful way to make the shift away from entitlement toward joy. Gratitude simply chooses to recognize gifts of grace for what they are and to express thanks.

Here are just a few suggestions of how you can practise the discipline of gratitude:

  • thank God for 10 things before your feet hit the floor in the morning (or, for those who struggle with falling back to sleep, before you have breakfast)
  • express gratitude instead of criticism or complaint (to your spouse, child, colleague)
  • sing or whistle a song which lift your spirit as you go about your daily routine
  • choose a routine moment to stop and thank God for the gifts you have received (ie: each trip to the coffee pot or the wc, whenever you step into your car, step away from your computer or finish a meeting)
  • play worship music in your car instead of talk radio, and turn it off occasionally in order to speak out your own praise

The gratitude challenge
I encourage you to try an experiment. Practise gratitude every day for a week and see how it helps you to be joyful. I'm curious if you'll experience a greater degree of joy as you take up this simple habit. I'm sure you'll come up with more ways to practise gratitude. How about sharing them here, along with the results of this experiment?

Conversation Prompts:
How did the gratitude challenge work for you? What did you do to stimulate your sense of gratitude? What have you become more aware of as you have put Paul's exhortation to be joyful into practice?

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