Gratitude to the Rescue
By Gwen Schwartz
Since joining the UGM ministry team almost two years ago as the Director of Ministry Advancement, God has taken me on a personal journey – a journey I am still on. He’s been showing me how vital it is to train my heart to respond to all of life with a thankful spirit, even during those difficult situations and seasons.
There were times during our move from Portland to Spokane – being separated from my husband, the new person at UGM, learning the culture and my role – when I began to get sucked into the undertow of ingratitude. I started focusing on what I wasn’t receiving from others, my needs not being met and my life starting to feel hard and wearisome. I was beginning to be pulled into that dangerous current, and it began to manifest itself in frustration, whining, and resentment.
I’d lost my life preserver: gratitude.
God sent phone calls, notes and conversations from people I’d just met and people that I’d known for years, reminding me who was in control and “aren’t we grateful to have Him directing our paths?”
Choosing gratitude rescued me from myself and my runaway emotions.
Christ-focused, grace-motivated gratitude fits everywhere. Today it keeps me from drowning in my natural inclination toward doubt, negativity, discouragement and anxiety.
UGM staff members are expected to walk out their transformational journey in the Lord. Tools, training and encouragement from others are available to me.
We may all need help in the journey to maintain an attitude of gratitude. But it’s clearly a command and expectation of God. Psalm 105:1 says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.” It’s a matter of obedience.
Paul states, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). As I choose to embrace an attitude of gratitude, I can be the best reflection of Christ while performing my job each day.
When I do that, my heart is genuine in expressing His blessings.
Being in various fundraising and development roles for the past 17 years, my primary responsibility has been to express gratitude for an individual’s or family’s tremendous support, whether that be their money or their time. Before, I worked for an organization that did not have a gospel-focused mission, which meant my expression of gratitude could not include my faith or belief in God.
What blessing and freedom I feel today, as I have the honor of expressing gratitude to our many ministry partners on behalf of the Union Gospel Mission leadership, staff, and the men, women and children we serve. Together, we rejoice in all that the Lord has done to bless both the giver and the receiver.
Sometimes great conversations take place and we learn how they first became involved with UGM and what motivates them to continue their partnership. We are blessed to hear some amazing “God stories” from them.
Some explain that they give because at some point in life they were in a similar place as some of our residents, or a family member is in need of our addiction recovery services. Others share that they have been through addition recovery themselves and are thankful for their sobriety and want to make sure others have the opportunity. Others say it is their belief in the Scripture and sharing their blessings with others less fortunate.
It is an awesome privilege for me to understand their heart of concern, commitment, generosity and sacrifice. We hear them share their gratitude for God’s gifts in their lives, and UGM receives their expression of that through their financial gifts and other kinds of support.
We also invite our partners to share concerns or struggles they might be going through, so we can pray and encourage them. We are partners with them and they with us in this journey of life. “Therefore encourage one another, and build each other up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
“We belong together in our work because Jesus has brought us together, and our fruitfulness depends on staying connected with him” (Henri Nouwen).
Jesus makes it possible to serve His people at UGM through the heart and gifts of His people, who in turn are also growing in Him and expressing that through giving their financial gifts (even if it may be a stretch or leap of faith for them).
So many people, from a huge variety of backgrounds, fulfill God’s call on their lives through serving and giving at UGM. And everyone can participate, because the body of Christ requires all kinds of parts (I Cor. 12:14-20). For this, we can all be thankful.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
Perhaps you'd like to express your gratitude to someone special today. Click below for a free greeting card.