I picked this book up, my first pick of the new year, in a fit of desperation. Life had gotten to me. I had too much on my plate and I wasn’t handling it well. Really, I needed a touch of God’s grace–more than a touch; I needed an outpouring. I didn’t necessarily want to read a book about gratitude, truthfully. Gratitude was the furthest thing from my mind or my spirit. However, this is a book that our family had given Steady Eddie’s precious grandmother for her last birthday we were blessed to share with her, and when she passed away, it came back to us. I knew from a comment from the bookseller we bought it from back last winter that it had the potential to be transformational, so I finally picked it up. What I found inside really isn’t new, of course, but Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in such a straightforward and compelling way that while reading this book, my spirit was stirred, and dare I say it? I am a little freer now than I was before reading this book, just because of the hope implicit within its covers. Like Gary Smalley’s Change Your Heart, Change Your Life back in 2009 (linked to my review), Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy is a book that contained a message for me at just the point in my life when I needed it most.
Choosing Gratitude is a short book, minus the 30-day devotional at the back of the book and the appendices. Only nine short chapters, Choosing Gratitude offers a very simple argument: Christians, of all people, have not only a reason for gratitude, but also a Person to whom to be grateful. This is no nebulous “thank you to the universe,” loosey-goosey emotion; a Christian’s gratitude is definable, even prescribed. The best part about it is that it truly is the pathway to joy. Here’s what DeMoss says about it:
Imagine the impact in a world characterized by isolation, selfishness, and fractured relationships, if we were to adorn the gospel we profess to believe, with a culture of mutual care, concern, generosity, and sacrifice. The truth we proclaim would become believable. And God would be glorified.
That’s what can happen every day of the week when God’s grace becomes real in our lives, when we remember all that’s been done for us through the miracle of redemption, when our first, heartfelt response is to say “Thank you”–both to God and others–in whatever expression He wants it to take at the moment.
Abounding. Overflowing. Grace not only receieved and deposited, but daily withdrawn and multiplied.
That’s what Christian gratitude will do. (43)
I guess the part about this book that really got down deep and touched me where I live is DeMoss‘s argument that thanksgiving should be the default response of the Christian. In all honesty, it is NOT my default. This book made me see my great need for transformation in this area of my life. Stress is the great robber of joy, contentment, and peace in my life. It’s not the big things, necessarily, that do me in. Oh no, it’s the little things, things that are just the status quo in a household with little children–things like getting everyone dressed and out the door on time, or feeding the DLM while one girl needs me in the bathroom and the other one is asking me a question about something we studied yesterday. Reading Choosing Gratitude helped me realize that I have a choice: I can fret and stew and whine and groan, or I can give thanks. Here it is again, in DeMoss‘s words:
I realized that for years, more often than not, my reflexive reaction to difficult circumstances had been to “whine,” rather than giving thanks from the outset. That reaction of fretting, giving in to discouragement, and expressing negative thoughts about pressures and problems, had become my default pattern. That day, the Lord showed me my need to develop a new pattern of responding, one of “giving thanks in all things.” (68)
For too long I had let guilt over my stress (and my poor handling of it, really) to paralyze me, rendering me incapable of making a better choice. I’m learning to thank God for it now, as weird as that seems to me. These things that cause me to call out to Him are designed for my life to make me more like Him, right? Yes–a cause for thanksgiving! I’m an old dog learning new tricks, by the help and grace of God.
I have a confession to make: I never finished Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I was reading it, and it disappeared from my nightstand one day. (I figure it’s somewhere in the black hole that is the underside of our bed.) As much as I love her blog (and I do–I am always convicted, blessed, and encouraged when I visit), I have to read her prose in smallish doses. I think Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s message is very similar to Ann’s, only it’s much more straightforward and less poetic. It’s so straightforward that Steady Eddie and I actually began reading this book aloud together, which is something we haven’t done in a long time. I’m working through the devotional now, and there’s some basic, good stuff in it. It’s stuff I should know (and do, really), but I don’t practice it.
I’m thankful to God for this book and this message that I so needed to hear. Highly, highly recommended. (Moody, 2009)