Finding Gratitude in a No-Good, Run-Down House

photo of an old room

As I mentioned recently, I’ve moved three times in the span of 12 months, and it has taught me some lessons about the illusion of control I had with all of my stuff. But the last move into our current home has helped me think about gratitude in a new way.

Our home is a 1950s bungalow that has been a rental property for a long time. The landlord lives out of state, and he isn’t here to keep an eye on things or meet each new tenant when they move in. Let me tell you something: An old house with an absent landlord is a recipe for disaster.

In the four months we’ve lived here, the air conditioner stopped working, as did the furnace. The refrigerator leaked water, and it took us days to find the source, which ended up being a rat’s nest clogging a hose. The oven is older than I am and doesn’t cook evenly. There are bugs galore — one time we found three crickets on the pillows on our bed. All three were very much alive. And the list goes on and on. The house didn’t even pass inspection when we applied for the city occupancy permit.

House Haters

What started out as a funny guessing game over what would break next turned into grumbling and frustration as the weeks went on. It was almost a daily occurrence for one of us to yell, “I hate this house!” If words reflect what’s in the heart, then our hearts were full of bitterness and resentment.

We were convinced that moving was the right thing to do and that God opened the door for this particular house. But we wondered why God opened a door that led to a bug-infested broken down rat’s nest.

That’s when we realized we needed to change our attitudes. We put a ban on saying we hated the house. And if we complained about the house, we had to say three things about the house we were thankful for.

The Impact of Gratitude

I didn’t want to say positive things about the house. At all. I was not thankful for the house, but I gave thanks anyway. And the more I trained myself to be grateful instead of hateful (see what I did there?), the more I became truly thankful. And (bonus!) it started to impact how I prayed.

Rather than always coming to God with a list of what I wanted Him to fix, I started thanking Him for all the things I was grateful for. It might be something small like finding gas for under $2 a gallon, or something more significant, like God healing a friend’s mom after a cancer diagnosis.

This house that has so greatly challenged my ability to be thankful has also helped me to understand what Paul meant in Philippians 4:4 (ESV):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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