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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Gardening for Gratitude

Some people enjoy getting their hands into the soil, planting seeds, pulling weeds, and watering plants. Not me.

Yes, I’ve pulled my share of weeds, cut grass, tilled the soil, and planted seeds. But if I’m honest, it is an act of my will, not something in which I wake up and say: Great! I get to tend to my garden today.

To reap the harvest of a garden requires more than a “green thumb.”

Although I enjoy seeing a weed-free green yard and the fruit of a garden, I’m not interested in doing all that it takes to accomplish that goal. I’ve heard that gardening comes naturally for some people. But ask any successful gardener, and they will tell you: A lush garden doesn’t appear without work.

It’s easier for me to get strawberries from a grocery store!

But here’s what I know. The lush, sweet taste of a strawberry is a result of intentional care and commitment. I have no problem giving thanks for a fresh bowl of strawberries. But I’m less likely to be thankful for all the work invested in getting those berries into my bowl.

It’s the same way with a thankful heart.

Just as a strawberry plant requires weeding, watering, and fertilizing, a grateful heart needs intentional and consistent care. The apostle Paul writes:

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

Some things that happen in life inspire thanksgiving.

I’ve never won the lottery. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never bought a ticket. But imagine that I purchase a ticket this week, and despite the odds against me, I win. I assure you, giving thanks wouldn’t be a problem.

But not every circumstance evokes a heart of gratitude. A diagnosis of cancer, unexpected termination of employment, a broken relationship, or any other startling, disappointing occurrence can prompt a negative response.

Is Paul suggesting that we should be happy about unpleasant and unwanted circumstances? NO. He is reminding us: Gratitude requires gardening.

It’s unlikely that a gardener is excited to see the growth of weeds that choke the life out of a plant. It’s not likely that you and I will express thanksgiving for the weeds that show up in the garden of our hearts.

Like weeds, unexpected and unpleasant circumstances require us to grab the hoe and do the hard work. To realize a healthy garden – or a heart of gratitude – demands our participation with God.

If you’re finding it challenging to be grateful, perhaps it’s time to remember who grows the garden. Psalm 147:7-9 reminds us:

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.”

Our part is to sing to the LORD with thanksgiving and make melody in our hearts because God provides rain and causes grass to grow. If the LORD attends to animals’ needs and hears young ravens’ cry, how much more does he hear our cries?

Despite your circumstances, God is faithful. When we see the weeds, we do all we can to remove them – while trusting that God is creating “life” we cannot see yet.

Thankfulness is a learned characteristic. Strawberries do not magically appear. Nor does a heart of gratitude.

Regardless of my circumstances, I’m choosing to remember:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song, I give thanks to him.”

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