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Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:18
It’s that time of year when we start thinking of those things for which we are grateful. Social media posts spring up by the thousands saying something like “30 days of thankfulness” where the person intends to be thankful for one thing everyday. Of course all the natural things to be thankful for come easily: our families, the beautiful weather, the fall colors, our jobs (because whether we like them or not, they provide for us), our homes, etc. But where it gets tough are those hard circumstances that we really don’t like. They are annoying, frustrating, and we don’t see how they add anything to our lives; as a matter of fact, they really take from it. Are we really supposed to be grateful for them?
My 10-year old daughter has recently moved into the regular chore rotation; meaning that every other week she has to do the dishes with her 16-year old sister. Our dishwasher died a couple of months ago, and, since we haven’t replaced it yet, all the dishes are being washed by hand. The older sister is supposed to be gently teaching her how to do it, however this happens to be a character-building exercise for her as well. My teenage daughter with “leadership qualities” is still learning how to be a gentle teacher. Because of this, younger sister really doesn’t like doing it, wishes we had a working dishwasher, and has an all-around bad attitude about the chore. She doesn’t work very hard which puts more pressure on older sister. You can see the circle of destruction going on here.
I spoke with the 10-year old about her attitude concerning said chore. It doesn’t matter that she dislikes washing the dishes. We all have to do things at times that we don’t like. What mattered was her attitude. Was she glorifying God with her attitude? Nope. Was she doing “all things to the glory of God.” Nope. And she definitely was not thankful for her job. (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17) Her negative attitude was what was important.
As is typically the case whenever I am correcting one of my children’s poor attitudes, I am also preaching to myself. Ugh! I have also had a very poor attitude about something that I wish I didn’t have to do. My husband’s car has been having troubles and all our attempts to fix it have not turned out in our favor. This means that I have had to take him to work in the morning. At first, when I had to leave the house at 6 in the morning it was not too bad. It seemed I would only have to do it once or twice. But as the car continued to fail to start, and the days drew into weeks, I began to get pretty irritable about it.
I’m tired of taking him to work! …grumble grumble... I miss sitting on my couch with my coffee in one hand and Bible in the other! …grumble grumble… It’s taking the most productive time out of my day as I can’t start until 7:30 instead of 6:45 as I like. …grumble grumble...
While all those things might be true, and my day does go smoother when I get to start it the way I like, it doesn’t excuse my attitude. I am still getting to listen to the word of God in the car while I’m driving – not perfect but it works. And honestly, things could always be worse than the relatively small annoyance of having to take him to work for a month. Instead of grumbling, what is required of me is a thankful attitude. Thankfulness to my Lord who has blessed me with so many things. Thankfulness for one vehicle that works, for a job to go to, for the 15 minutes of one on one conversation time that we weren’t getting before, and so much more. When I choose to be thankful hard things become easier.
How can we be more thankful?
Read the Psalms
So what can we do to foster more of an attitude of gratitude? The best place to start is in the Word of God. I suggest reading some of the psalms of thanksgiving. Psalms 100, 103, 136, 138, and 146 are good ones to start with. Pray through them, worship through them. Ask God to give you a spirit of thanksgiving.
Many of the psalms exhort us to praise the Lord. They don’t say praise the Lord because your life is going well. No, they tell us to praise Him because He is good. Psalm 33 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord…Give thanks to the Lord…Sing to Him a new song…For the word of the Lord is upright and all His work is done in faithfulness.” Why does the psalmist tell us to praise the Lord? We are to praise Him because He is faithful and upright, not because of the circumstances of our life at the time.
Read Christian biographies
I have found that reading biographies of men and women who have struggled in the faith have increased my joy and my attitude of thankfulness. Many of them did not live easy lives, and my trials, by comparison, seem minuscule in light of theirs. Some of the accounts I have read and found meaningful include:
- If I Perish– The true story of a young Korean woman named Esther Ahn Kim. She refused to bow to the Japanese idols and the oppression she endured because of it.
- George Muller– The story of a man who believed God could supply all the needs of both his family and the thousands of orphans that he cared for. God did provide, all without George asking people for a single penny.
- God’s Smuggler– the story of Brother Andrew, a man who risked his life to smuggle bibles into closed countries behind the iron curtain.
- Through Gates of Splendor– the story of Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries and their desire to see souls won for Christ.
Read books on gratitude
I am also currently reading a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss entitled “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.” She begins with our biggest reason for gratitude, and that is our salvation. We are so prone to lose the wonder and awesomeness of what God did for us. That Jesus would see fit to leave the throne room of God, to shed some of His divinity and be made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5-8). That He would dwell amongst sinful humanity and allow Himself to be mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross by the very men He created. All so that He could declare us righteous and we could dwell forever with Him in heaven. It’s an amazing thought. She goes beyond that, however, into the how’s and why’s of gratitude.
I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship.
And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.
Choosing Gratitude, Pg 23-24
Thankfulness is a command
1 Thessalonians tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Whether we like it or not, this is a command. Paul doesn’t give us an out on this; he doesn’t give us any exceptions to the rule. We are to give thanks. We do it because He created all things very good and He keeps them in His care. We do it for the glory of God and we do it for our own good.
How do you incorporate an attitude of gratitude in your life? Let me know in the comments below so that we can encourage one another in spiritual growth.
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