How well do you receive gifts of generosity from others? Are you skilled at the art of receiving well? Do you spend your days focused on all there is to give thanks for? Or do the frustrations and challenges exhaust you, stealing your focus, energy, and willingness to give thanks?
My personal prayers have been filled with petitions the past few months to be able to receive well and to grow in thanksgiving.
In all honesty, I am not very good at receiving. Historically, my first thoughts when receiving gifts are “I don’t deserve this” and “Now I am indebted to repay this”. Shame, guilt, debt. These thoughts are like bad medical side effects to the latest pharmaceutical drug. They overshadow and devalue the original benefits of the gift.
Feelings and thoughts like these do not fuel PEP UP for Joy. They are certainly not a wellspring of thanksgiving. They are a drain of energy, emotions, and effort.
So I have been asking the God who generously gives to help me become a better receiver; asking Him to help me grow in thanksgiving. I know God has been listening, because He has graciously been giving me opportunities to practice receiving.
Receiving is humbling and pride crumbling. Receiving is delivered through pathways of delicate disclosure. Gifts are so often given upon revelation of needs and shortcomings. Who likes to reveal their needs and shortcomings to others?
Revealing my holes of emptiness, cracks of brokenness, and faults of failure is not something I am good at or that I delight in. The balm of God’s glorious graciousness can not be applied to bruises that are hidden.
God’s grace is amazing and absolutely incredible. His might and abundance can provide an ample filling for an empty cavity. Sometimes we get to be the filler and sometimes we carry the cavity, but rarely are we given both. It is through relationships and what we reveal in those relationships that the provisional gifts of God’s goodness can be given.
We need to let down our guard and welcome others through the gates of our lives so we can learn how to receive gifts with great thanksgiving.
Let Jesus In First
When I suggest letting others into our lives, do you have a knee jerking, door slamming reaction in your heart? Me too, at least in part. One of my first reactions is a strobe of memories of painful relational experiences flashing at intense time lapse speed in my mind.
It’s a barrage of the broken, bad, and ugly in my life. Broken friendships. Bad family moments. Ugly circumstances. Tears, pain, hurt, sorrow, famine, failure, fatigue.
I am not saying that everyone should be allowed to enter the gates of our hearts. We live in a broken fallen world of sinners. To keep a guard of protection is wise in many circumstances. But, keeping everyone out is not wise either.
We need to let Jesus in first. We need to open our hearts to Him. He is perfect. He is good. He is worthy. Jesus loves us with a sacrificial, saving, healing, eternal love. A love that takes the guilt, the shame, and the debt of our sin to be replaced with a growing and overflowing thanksgiving.
“And now just as you trusted Christ to save you,
trust him, too, for each day’s problems;
live in vital union with him.
Let your roots grow down into him
and draw up nourishment from him.
See that you go on growing in the Lord,
and become strong and vigorous
in the truth you were taught.
Let your lives overflow with joy
and thanksgiving for all he has done.”
Colossians 2:6-7 (TLB)
We need to trust Christ with each problem, frustration, and challenge that we face. When we do that our union with Jesus grows stronger. Jesus gives us the focus, energy, and willingness to grow; to grow in Him and to grow in thanksgiving.
Jesus is the perfect combination of everything our roots need to grow down into, allowing us to draw up the nourishment we need. With Jesus we become strong, we become vigorous, and we are built up. Jesus gives us wisdom and revelation to help us know who we can let our guard down with and who we should welcome in through the gates of our heart.
Receiving well from Jesus can teach us how to receive well from others. Jesus is trustworthy enough for all our delicate disclosures. Jesus is compassionate enough to face all of our bruises without flinching, applying His perfect balm of healing to each one. In doing so Jesus increases the value of every gift He gives, broadening the benefits beyond our personal borders.
What Jesus does and who He connects us with just may surprise us. But it is only beyond the limits of our minds, our hearts, and our imaginations that we can experience overflowing joy and thanksgiving.
Celebrating Overflowing Thanksgiving
Celebrating thanksgiving is so much more than a one day American holiday of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Overflowing thanksgiving is more than tables filled with massive platters of meat, savory side dishes, and sweetly sauced concoctions.
While I am always up for sharing delightfully festive culinary fare that fills the belly, I find myself hungering more for a feast that will fill my spirit.
What is thanksgiving? Webster.com has three definitions of the word thanksgiving.
- public acknowledgement or celebration of divine goodness
- act of giving thanks
- prayer expressing gratitude
What I glean from these definitions is that thanksgiving means to take action, the act of giving thanks. It is recognizing and celebrating the Lord’s goodness. It is expressing gratitude through prayer. It is what follows and flows from receiving the gifts God gives to us.
What would our lives look like if we were overflowing with thanksgiving?
Overflowing in our giving of thanks. Overflowing in acknowledging God’s goodness. Overflowing in celebrating God’s righteousness. Overflowing in prayers of gratitude. Overflowing with joy.
Can you just imagine what that would be like? Can you imagine what an impact that would make in your life, the lives you are connected to, your corner of the world?
It’s a bit beyond the limits of me at this point, but I certainly want to keep growing in that direction. I want to continue to practice those delicate disclosures, letting people into the gates of my heart, receiving gifts, growing deeply rooted in Jesus, all in the hopes of of overflowing with thanksgiving and joy.
Live It Out
Take ten minutes today to sit quietly to allow your roots to deepen into Jesus. Soak up the nourishment He wants to give you. Use the questions below to help release what is tightly bound up and wrapped together.
Have you allowed Jesus to enter through the gates of your heart?
Are there any areas in your heart that you need to let your guard down to Him?
Are there any delicate disclosures that you need to make to Jesus?
Do you need to show Him any bruises that you have been covering?
What good gifts have you received lately?
What is an action of giving thanks that you could take in response to that gift?
Who can you share, acknowledge, and celebrate this gift of God’s goodness with?
At the end of our times, may we be able to offer prayers of gratitude for the gifts we have been given.
Pray Through It
Beloved Lord, we want to be growing and overflowing with thanksgiving. Lord, increase and strengthen our union with You. Help us to trust You with each day and all of the circumstances held within each day.
Help us let You through the gates our heart. Help us disclose those delicate concerns that we are tightly guarding. Help us reveal to Your healing hand bruises we may be hiding. Lord, help our roots grow down into You so that we may draw up the nourishment we need to be strengthened and vigorous.
Open our eyes and ears to the gifts that we have been so graciously given. Help us to receive these gifts well. May we acknowledge, celebrate, and pray with gratitude for the goodness that overflows from You.
Let our lives fill to capacity and spread beyond our limits with joy and thanksgiving for all You have done.
In the name of Jesus who overflows with love, kindness, compassion, and generosity towards us. Amen