Oh, there are things we don’t want to be thankful for. Car problems. Bad days at work. Loved ones disagreeing with us or pointing out our flaws. Opportunities that take up a lot of time. Homes that aren’t everything we want them to be.
Come Thanksgiving time, we feel a little guilty about our discontent. It feels like we “should” be more grateful. We try. Many of us think about the at least’s.
“At least I have a home and a car and a job and a loved one and opportunities…”
We sound a little more appreciative. For the moment. Then the holiday ends. Or the kids throw a fit. And one more appliance breaks, our sense of gratitude snapping under all the weight.
Does gratitude ever repulse you, too? Does it ever crush you, feeling like an obligation that’s too much to bear?
Thankfulness becomes unappealing when it is based on how we feel instead of on glorifying God and doing His will. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Choosing to disregard this command, as we so often do, reveals some even more unappealing aspects of our hearts. A lack of gratitude signals that we:
• Are counting our desires to be more important than the Lord’s.
• Think we deserve more than He gives us sinners so graciously
• Are not recognizing His loving-kindness and provision in all things
Unfortunately, the sin that our lack of gratitude reveals isn’t fixed simply by being more thankful. Saying “thank you” more often does not on its own correct our hearts. Choosing to see gratitude differently, as we do with our temporary at least’s, does not always point us to a correct practice of gratitude.
To discover anew the wonder of thankfulness each of us can:
Recognize thanks as a gift from God
“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his…Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Psalm 100:3-4
God made everything. He defines the concept of good. You need to treat thankfulness accordingly. Gratitude is designed by God. When He tells you and I to give thanks and praise, He’s doing so as the one that we belong to –and the one that all thanks and praise belong to.
He also made thanks good for you. His reason, beyond all praise belonging to Him, is that He loves to share it with you as a gift. Thankfulness comes with joy. It comes with a healthy perspective and greater fulfillment in this life. Take it as a gift, not a chore.
Focus on the one you are thankful to
“I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.” Psalm 7:17
Since God made everything and every good and perfect gift is from Him, He is the one you ultimately need to give thanks to for everything. Certainly giving thanks to other people is important –but anything they have to offer they have because He gave it first.
Focusing on this fact helps to keep you from the habit of feeling thankful out of guilt or because you think you owe someone. Further, when someone hurts you, it keeps you from losing your thankfulness for the ways that they’ve loved you, too.
When all your thanks are, at their core, unto the Lord, they are unto one who demands nothing from you and whose goodness doesn’t change.
Ask for the Lord’s help in changing your heart
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
As you try to recognize thankfulness as a gift and give all praise to Him, your perspective changes. That’s not always enough to root out the sins that keep bringing you back to being ungrateful.
Though it is not sin to be ungrateful, our lack of gratitude typically stems from a sin in your heart. Confess that sin. Ask the Lord to forgive it. As He wipes that slate clean for you, your heart will have a hunk of gratitude to start with over again.