by Tamie Bixler Lung
Does one ever truly understand the difference between being thankful and being grateful? These two words are similar though different in meaning. Henri Frederic Amiel, a famous German poet and philosopher, stated, “Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” The word “completion” stood out to me when I read this. It’s like the icing on the cake that finishes the beauty of the dessert. Gratitude completes the beauty of our thankfulness.
As women in ministry, we often find ourselves trying to be grateful to those around us and set a good example. We may feel it’s important to go the extra mile on occasions by demonstrating our thankful heart. Basically, we can be thankful in our spirit, but when we put action with that thought, it becomes beautiful graciousness.
Proverbs 11:16 NIV(1984) reminds us, “A kindhearted woman gains respect…” It’s important as a leader to take our thankful heart and turn it into a grateful act of love. When we demonstrate this through loving acts of kindness, it not only gains us respect from those we’re leading, but also brings glory to the God we serve. Proverbs 12:4 says, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.” If you’re married and in ministry, this woman’s character brings honor to her husband. Although it doesn’t specifically say this wife is thankful, I think this would be one of the characteristics making her noble.
Sometimes ministry can be challenging. Women become more emotionally drained than their husbands because it’s their nature. We may find it difficult to embrace the thankful heart that God so longs for us to have. Depending on the circumstances, we may find ourselves feeling the opposite of thankful and becoming resentful. This happens when we set our eyes on circumstances rather than the one who can change the circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes it’s easy to give ourselves permission NOT to be thankful. We want that “get out of thankfulness” free card. As women, we are naturally more emotional than men. We carry deep feelings for so long and then, like an erupting volcano, we explode with emotions, tears, and words. However, this passage reminds us to give thanks in “all” circumstances. This requires a change of perspective.
When we choose to be thankful for the person who might be making our ministry challenging, we grow spiritually. We change our perspective and see that situation or that person through God’s eyes. He then begins to give us unique and creative ways to turn that new attitude into an outward expression of loving gratitude.
A few years ago, I was really struggling to show gratitude toward one of the leaders in our church. There was an unspoken wall between us, and I just couldn’t do anything to make this person come around. Avoiding her became my goal. I bought into a lie that the enemy planted and found myself pulling away and not even wanting to be in the same room with her. Week after week, I dreaded seeing this person. I finally heard the Holy Spirit say, “Be thankful for her and pray over her.” I found myself becoming more reclusive while at the church or performing my ministerial duties. After a few weeks, I heard the Holy Spirit say it again. “Be thankful for her and pray over her.”
I knew I needed to be obedient, but I struggled because this person had hurt my feelings with her authority and had created a toxic environment to be around. I had covered for her multiple times and took on responsibilities that she was being paid to do. I willingly did these but was treated with disrespect and gossip. The enemy was working to destroy the ministry and we were both feeding into it.
However, I chose to listen and began thinking of things to be thankful for concerning her position and accomplishments in ministry. The Holy Spirit began to reveal to me things going on in her life that not many knew. This woman needed prayers and gratitude, not discontentment or judgement. It wasn’t my place to judge her or stir up more problems for her. This person needed my prayers, my acknowledgement of her past sacrifices, and a thankful, gracious heart. By doing this, it brought potential peace rather than overwhelming chaos.
I began to see her through God’s eyes and began to embrace her vision and goals for the ministry God had birthed through her. Over time, she stepped away and endured some difficult trials in her marriage and family. I continued to pray for her, but also understood that being thankful for the foundation she had laid out for this ministry was crucial. My gratitude would be shown by continuing with a strong team to fulfill that vision.
It takes a thankful heart to work in the kingdom. We’re told multiple times to give thanks to the Lord for He is good. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” We know that being thankful and grateful are key components to existing in the kingdom of God, and we know working in the ministries of the kingdom requires a thankful heart despite the challenges.
Turning our thankful thoughts into acts of gratitude is very rewarding. As women, we can use our sensitive emotions God has given us to see and feel things around other people. We can take those thankful thoughts and turn them into acts of gratitude. This can be done with words of affirmation, cards, letters, gifts, or random acts of kindness. The important thing is to put action to thankful thoughts. This makes these two words take on a different meaning. As Amiel stated, “Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.”
As women in ministry, we can use our position of leadership to show others how these two similar, but different words, can be effectively demonstrated. Be aware of the enemy and his schemes to thwart relationships in your ministry. Turning your thoughts of thankfulness into acts of gratitude can be instrumental in making your leadership respected and well-received by others. Never underestimate the power of a thankful heart.
Raised in Springfield, Tamie experienced much of what the Missouri Ozarks had to offer, including a few years at Evangel College, where she met her now husband Tim in a college Sunday School class. During their 38 years of marriage, they have raised and homeschooled 5 children, served in various ministry positions in Illinois & Missouri, and have owned several small businesses. They currently own a gourmet seasonings company called Crawdad's Classics, which they purchased from Tamie's father. Presently, they attend Oak Grove A/G. Tamie is an inspirational speaker, business owner and author. She wrote a 31 Day inspirational devotional called "This Life We Live" and is currently finishing a recovery book called "Knowing Your 'Why'," which she hopes to publish in 2024. Tamie can often be found entertaining her 9 grandchildren and looks forward to enjoying 3 new ones coming in 2024.
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