In her debut book, Mary Mohler, the first lady of Southern Seminary, encourages readers to pursue gratitude and offers strategies for how to grow in it. Southern Seminary Magazine contributor Annie Corser sat down with Mrs. Mohler in her home to talk about the book, Growing
How essential is it to know Scripture in order to have a heart of gratitude?
It’s truly essential. I think that’s where people often get off-track. The reason I wrote the book was because I see a lack of gratitude — a half-hearted: “Sure, I count my blessings every once in a while.” People don’t realize that it is such a deeply theological issue. In Scripture, we’re told so many times to praise the Lord, to be thankful, and in all circumstances not for all circumstances. We’re supposed to be abounding with thanksgiving, so I take that very seriously. This gratitude is very deeply rooted in the Word.
How does Scripture help increase our gratitude?
Oh, Scripture just affirms it all over the place. As we pray through the Psalms, that can do nothing but increase our gratitude. If people are struggling with gratitude they should run to God’s Word. We get back to Scripture — especially with the idea of “gracious gratitude” that Jonathan Edwards coined. That was revolutionary to me; I knew nothing about that until I started writing the book and started looking into this more. I came to realize that gratitude is about thanking God for who he is, first of all. That’s primary. Then we move onto thanking him for what he’s done. As you pray through the Psalms and you pray through prayers found elsewhere in Scripture, your gratitude will grow. It’s the best place to be.
You encourage readers to keep a “blessing journal” and a “thorns journal.” Can you explain those?
This sounds counterintuitive, are you really asking us to praise God and be thankful for the difficulties — the thorns — in our lives? I think that’s biblical too. And we see that lived out in Paul’s life. He asked three times for his thorn to be taken away. It wasn’t. The Lord in his sovereignty left that in Paul’s life knowing that all of us today would be reading about this and would be saying, “How can that be?”
A thorns list, which should be a much shorter list I hope, alongside the praise list helps us be able to say, “Lord I didn’t ask for this. I’m not going to act like I’m happy when I’m not, but I want to thank you for this thorn. Because you put it there for a reason, and I’ll understand that one day. I want you to use it to your glory and I want you to change my heart and change my attitude. The roses on the list start to smell sweeter as you’re thankful for the thorns.
How did writing this book make you personally more grateful?
It’s very difficult to admonish women to be more grateful if you have a complaining and negative spirit. I found myself more than once thinking, “Wait a minute. What is it that you are writing about even now? Let’s remember that, and turn this around and find a way to be grateful.” So it’s definitely been a sanctifying process — as so many things in life are that the Lord Jesus uses to grow us and change us to his likeness.