10 Habits to Form for a More Grateful Heart

A month ago, I began noticing I was sighing. A LOT. There are times my sighs were right in nature, as sighs tend to be how I relate to God over a sin or sadness I witness in my life or upon witnessing the effects of sin within the world. But the sighs I was noticing were not righteous in nature. Instead, they were usually tied to when I was being asked to do something that I didn’t desire to do, or when someone did something that irked me. No doubt about it, I was unwilling to serve and I was easily annoyed. But it went considerably deeper than this outward signal of my sin. {Yes, I sighed as I typed that sentence.}

Many sins we commit originate from ungrateful hearts. Ungratefulness takes root in our hearts because we have a worship disorder. Sadly, as redeemed daughters of the King, we often function as those without Christ when ingratitude nestles its way into our hearts and minds.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks... 
~Romans 1:21

A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.
— Henry Ward Beecher

As I battle this sin of thankless sighing, a form of grumbling and wordless disputing (Philippians 2:14), I have written these 10 things to renew my heart of gratitude:

1. Realign your Focus from Self to God

So often as believers, we can look more like the world than Christ. Our focus has shifted, and before we know it, we are being squeezed into the world’s mold of a god of our own sinful desires (Romans 12:1-2).

This intentional transfer of focus gets our eyes off ourselves and helps us to focus on God. Reading the Psalms is a great avenue to begin a focus shift as we emulate the Psalmists’ focus from their situation to their God.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness,
because of Your truth.
~Psalm 115:1

2. Rehearse and Proclaim the Gospel OFTEN

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
~Romans 1:16-17

What I realized with each subtle sigh, was that I was not willing to die to self for others as Christ did for me. We see Christ’s example of humility just prior to the command to do everything without grumbling and complaining:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
~Philippians 2:3-8

I had lost my focus of God’s glory and I was failing to rehearse the gospel. But by God’s grace, I am making a turn from sighing to serving.

3. Recognize God’s Sovereign Rule

Remind yourself that you are not in control, but that you serve a Mighty God who keeps you in a place of humility and dependent trust. This will help you grow to recognize how much you need Him to aid you in daily living.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.
~Romans 11:33-36

4. Remember His Benefits

This helps us to remember we have so much to be grateful for; even all of the little things.  Those tiny lost treasures called blessings often go unnoticed in our ingratitude, and we forget to thank Him. Trusting and remembering the gospel aids us in remembering the goodness of His many blessings (Psalm 103:1-5).   

5. Reflect upon Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift

God is the Giver of all good gifts. We were never intended to be self-sufficient in this life. A grateful heart ultimately reminds us that God is our Provider, that all blessings and gifts are graciously given to us by His unchanging hand.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 
~James 1:17

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 
~1 Timothy 4:4

6. Repent from any Anxiety

When I am sighing from all “I have to do,” I am not rejoicing and can become anxious. Instead of sighing I need to turn from my sin to God with requests for help and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).

7. Relentlessly Pursue a Pure and Blameless Heart

A heart of gratitude leaves no room for complaining. For it is impossible to be truly thankful and filled with negativity and ungratefulness at the same time.  I must rely upon God’s grace to shine his goodness to the world.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
~Phil 2:12-16

8. Recognize the Work God is Doing in Others

When I recognize and thank God for what He is doing in the lives of others, I am not as inwardly focused. Often, self-absorption brings us to ingratitude.

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account. 
~1 Thessalonians 3:9

9. Ardently be in Prayer

If I am more devoted to prayer than my selfish desire, I will be less likely to sigh. I will be seeking His help with my cares.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
~Colossians 4:2

10. Remain Stable and Disciplined in Christ

I must obey. Even when I don’t feel like it. I must allow the feeling to follow the fact that God calls me to walk in gratitude. The feelings may not come, but I can trust God in my mind that obedience is a beautiful thing that comes from the work of Christ.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
~Col 2:6-7

Growing in this Grace

An ever-growing attitude of gratitude will certainly make us more content since we will be focusing more on what we do have, both spiritually and materially, than on what we do not have…It is all by His grace.
— Jerry Bridges

I am not sighing as much as I was a month ago. Praise God I am making headway by His grace. I am mindful of the feeling of heaviness that comes from a sigh, and instead, I am walking in joyful repentance. I am thankful for the mercies of God that are new every single morning.  And, OH, how I long for the day when my sighing will flee! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

And the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
~Isaiah 35:10