While many of us think more about being thankful during the month of Thanksgiving, I wanted to get a jump-start on it. We are commanded to be thankful in everything, and this is something we can’t do in our own strength. Because it’s not natural to give thanks always, I need help-good practical help. I also need solid supernatural help. If you’re with me in this, I have some ideas to share.
Recently a mom shared the story of how she was teaching her little one to say “Thank you”. Over and over again the mom had to remind her child to use good manners because it didn’t come naturally for the little girl. While most of us adults have learned proper etiquette and can articulate a proper “thank you”, it may not always be from our hearts. Doing the right thing even when we don’t feel it can help us eventually ‘feel it’, but that doesn’t disregard the need to take our actions and feelings to God and ask Him to replace our “don’t want to” with a supernatural desire to “want to”.
We are commanded in a variety of places in the Bible to be thankful. A heart that is thankless spirals into futility and darkness (Romans 1) and all sorts of other sins grow out of that.
How is your heart?
As we each examine what is going on in our hearts and minds, we can help one another glorify God by cultivating thankfulness.
Should we teach our children to give thanks if they don’t really feel thankful? Should we do this ourselves? Are we being authentic if we say ‘thank you’ but we aren’t thankful? We can think of so many excuses to not obey God’s word, but in the end, He’s given us life and salvation (!!!) so how can we continue on in our futile thinking?
There are many things that have happened in my life for which I’ve not felt thankful for. Death, conflicts, difficulties—not things I’d prefer. Yet, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 remains true:
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Paul doesn’t beat around the bush as he writes to the Thessalonian church here. God’s will is for us to be thankful…in everything. Yes, I can be thankful for the meal my friend bought me, I can be thankful for the birthday gift, I can be thankful for the guy who yielded to me in traffic. But, how can I be thankful in the things that threaten despair? This is where the rubber meets the road.
We must not overlook this critical step. Until we pray and ask God for strength, we’re going to be doing it in our own…and that won’t last long, or it will just wear us out. We’ll become bitter and even more thankless in the end! So, pray for God’s strength. Praying also is a great way to see where we’re struggling in thankfulness. It’s not always obvious in the day to day. Ask God to show you your need!
Cut out complaining.
One of my children had developed quite a habit of complaining. Time to do school? Not now, Mom! Long bike ride? It’s too hard-let’s go home now, Mom! Dinner? I don’t like this, Mom! Yuck, yuck, and yuck. It has taken some real discipline for this child to replace complaining with thanksgiving, but the fruit of this has already blessed the child and the whole house.
What about our complaining though? As I disciplined my child, I had to face the truth of when I too complained:
Why did you take this route instead of the other one?
Isn’t it too hot in here? Why can’t they figure out the temperature in this place?
I hate Mondays.
He should’ve…Why didn’t he…Why wasn’t I asked…
Why would God do this to us?
God has been revealing my oh-so-sophisticated complaints in quite a few unexpected places. Just like a fish doesn’t know that it’s wet, our complaining habits may be so engrained that they are second nature. Ask God to reveal where you are complaining. Then, have a tender response.
Instead of complaining, say something positive. When you are overheating in a store, thank God for the shelter over your head. When your husband takes a different route than you would, thank God for his life and his willingness to care for your family. When Monday morning reminds you that the fun weekend is over, thank God that He has given you a clean slate for a new week. When you weren’t asked to serve in a particular way, thank God that His timing is perfect and ask Him to show you what you could do now in the wait.
There are always things to be thankful for. Begin the habit of replacing the complaints with thanks. Replace thanklessness with thankfulness. See the difference. You will fight all sorts of other sins in the process—bitterness will fade away, mercy will increase, joy will abound.
Pray, cut it out, and replace with thanks. Ask God to give you a sincerity of heart so the thankfulness is real. Soon this thankfulness will be contagious—to your family, your friends, even strangers. And, wouldn’t that be an amazing way to magnify God?!