We will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving in homes and around tables in America, so of course, this is the time of year when our minds turn toward all things THANKFUL. The posts on Facebook, blogs, and sermons all tell us of the importance of having an “attitude of gratitude.” November seems to be saturated with the reminders.
We can all sometimes struggle with keeping a thankful heart. Not only at this time of year, but the other ten months as well.
Why do we struggle? Because we’re selfish. We’re self-centered. We’re ungrateful. We compare. We want things to be easy. We focus more on what we wish for and less on what we have been blessed with. There. It’s all out there on the table…. nestled uncomfortably between the turkey and the sweet potato casserole. Uuugghh! And when we become aware of our discontent, we feel the uncomfortable weight of these self-serving tendencies.
Do we wake up every day consciously unappreciative of the wonderful portion, and all the amazing people, and provisions we’ve been blessed with? No. In fact, many days we are acutely aware of the treasures of life and we stand amazed by God’s faithfulness and of how richly blessed our days are.
So where does the creeping disenchantment come in? Shouldn’t we all be able to keep our eye on the prize and be utterly grateful for what our lives are? We may not have it all. We may not have it all exactly the way we want it. But make no mistake, we areblessed beyond measure in our lives and even on our most difficult of days, we can find those blessings…if we look.
Sometimes even the things that in the natural seem more like curses, can actually end up being gifts.
You may know the song “Blessings” by Laura Story…part of the lyrics say:
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
It’s tough to think of the hard stuff in life as blessings. Especially when we are in the middle of it all. Contrary to popular belief, the Blessing of God is not what He gives us, the Blessing of God is that He is with us.
We don’t always see it when we are in the thick of things, but the rearview mirror can help us put that into perspective. So can giving THANKS…yes, actually THANKING GOD for being with us and THANKING Him for what He’s doing in the midst of our trials, often helps to calm our discontentment and breed gratitude.
It’s funny how when we pause and take note of the smallest things, it grounds us and brings us to center and we can focus on what matters. We can focus on the goodness and abundant blessings of God. The embrace of a spouse. The small hand of a child that reaches out for ours. A great meal with good friends. The glory of a sunrise or sunset that sets the sky ablaze in color. Even the warm goodness of a cup of coffee in the morning or a good night’s sleep.
And then we work our way up to the big stuff…the hard stuff. Being thankful for our challenges. For the sleepless nights. The trying days. The difficult relationships. The disappointments. The diagnosis that we hoped we’d never hear. Because they all serve a purpose. They all mold us and make us into stronger, braver, and more God-reliant.
Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
That doesn’t mean that it all works out for OUR version of good…. rather God’s version of our good and the purposes He has for our lives. And for that, we can be thankful.
Today, let’s think about how we can approach the weeks remaining in this year with a different mindset. How can we finish this year THANKFUL and remain grateful into 2019?
Here is an idea: Become a gratitude junkie and begin looking for—sometimes hunting and digging for—the good things. The things that give us pleasure, comfort, joy and stir gratefulness. Then pause and simply whisper a quiet, “Thank you.”
Examine the difficult things, too, and be thankful for what God is doing in the trials. We can choose to trust that He is working all things together for our good. We choose to have faith in Him and His goodness and learn to thank Him… even for the tough stuff. As James writes in Scripture:Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… (James 1:2)
We count it all as blessings and we are thankful.