The Life-Changing Effects of Gratitude
A good book informs you. A great book forms you.
Why do I consider Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth’s Choosing Gratitude a great book? Because its content is wedging its way into my daily consciousness and is in the fetal stages of making an observable difference in my life.
Typically, depression spawns negative thought patterns: self-condemnation over imperfections; hopelessness concerning the future; doubts about core beliefs, and a greater vulnerability to complaining about inconveniences and frustrating circumstances. Though we can’t always prevent the onset of depression, God has given us as Christians the capacity to manage our responses to despondency.
What Describes Choosing Gratitude?
*Biblical Every chapter teems with principles and specific verses from God’s Word. Some pages appear to have bloodstains because Nancy “bleeds Bible” and uses it for her primary insights on gratitude.
*Anecdotal Attention-grabbing stories, showing both a thankful spirit and ingratitude, dot the pages.
*Applicable Repeatedly, Nancy links a point she makes to typical daily experiences of her readers. She understands the human heart and the obstacles that try to eclipse a thankful spirit.
*Devotional Nancy ends her book with a 55-page 30-day devotional guide. Each day’s reading employs a different excerpt from Scripture. She gives brief assignments for the person who is serious about the pursuit of a more grateful spirit.
What Are Some Biblical Nuggets that Nancy Offers?
1. Cultivating a grateful spirit begins with keen awareness of the grace extended to us on the cross. Whether we’re depressed or simply caught up in a self-centered cycle of complaining, gratitude begins with preaching the gospel to ourselves, and reminding ourselves of the benefits of our salvation (see Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1:3-14).
She quotes Oswald Chambers: “The thing that awakens the deepest well of gratitude in a human being is that God has forgiven sin.” Freedom from guilt, an experience of God’s grace, should naturally lead to gratitude.
2. Gratitude instills within us a winsome spirit and attractiveness that draws other people to us. A thankful spirit is a safeguard against the bitter, sour spirit that repels others.
3. Gratitude stems from a right view of God and His sovereignty. Renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon battled depression, severe gout, the burden of a disabled wife, and unfair criticism from colleagues in ministry, yet he didn’t view affliction as an enemy to gratitude or joy. His pain repeatedly propelled Him into Christ’s presence for sustenance. Nancy quotes him as saying, “I think health is the greatest blessing that God ever sends us, except for sickness, which is far better.”
Nancy also tells the story of Dr. Helen Roseveare, who was among the women beaten and raped by guerrilla soldiers decades ago on the mission field in Africa. She questioned God, but ultimately God’s Spirit whispered this question to her: “Helen, can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?”
So the gratitude touted in God’s Word and explained by Nancy is not the glib, back-slapping “Praise the Lord, anyway!” remarks that we’ve all heard. No, real gratitude rests on the belief that God is wise, loving, and in control no matter what happens to us. God can use things that typically spawn ingratitude for a redemptive purpose.
4. When we’re hurting, a means of cultivating gratitude to God is remembering His past deeds and mercies. She uses Israel’s history to show how forgetfulness of God’s past deeds led to moral erosion and rebellion (Psalm 106). She recommends regular times of writing down ways God has blessed us: answers to prayer, provision, ministry fruit, and enablement during affliction, to name a few.
What I call “putting the past into the present tense” reminds us that we serve a faithful God and engenders faith in what He will do for us in the future. I highlighted this remark in Nancy’s book: “Ingratitude is the first step away from God.”
5. A companion trait to gratitude is humility. She quotes Henry Ward Beecher to make this point: “A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”
6. Gratitude is a fruit of God’s Spirit. We cannot manufacture it apart from intimacy with Christ or through mere human willpower. Though it is a choice, as suggested by the book title, enablement for choosing gratitude comes as His Spirit changes us through regular times in His Word and prayer. None of us can obtain a trait such as gratitude without intimacy with the One who instills it.
Can You Illustrate the Book’s Effect on You?
Occasionally a shroud of depression descends upon me suddenly, after a morning of teaching brimming with enthusiasm and positive emotions. That happened a few days ago. After lunch I rested on the couch while my gloomy mood matched the low-lying dark clouds outside my office window.
That’s when I began praying aloud to God, citing specific reasons for a grateful spirit that, at the moment, I did not feel: a lovely, godly wife of 46 years; a challenging ministry which allows me to train Christian workers; two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and my six-year old grandson; the fact that Dolly and I have no financial debt since the last house payment in 2017; and last, but not least, an eternity in heaven where “there shall be no longer any death…mourning…crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that my choice to express gratitude to God caused all depression to evaporate suddenly that afternoon. But I am saying that expressing gratitude subtly changed my attitude, generated a measure of joy, and sustained me for the remaining responsibilities of the day.
I don’t think that would have happened if I had not recently read Nancy’s Choosing Gratitude. Even if you aren’t depression-prone, you’ll still profit immensely from her book.