Today I'm continuing in the discipline of giving thanks. I call it a discipline because sometimes it is a discipline. It's easy to feel thankful when everything is going well in life, when your circumstances are great, when everyone you love is well and happy, when sin and its ugly consequences are staying at bay. Unfortunately, those times are, for the most part, brief and rare.
The old adage that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation" is true. The people who seem to "have it all together" are probably struggling with something underneath the perfect façade. There are no perfect people or perfect lives. At some point or other, we will all have to face challenges and hardships such as sickness, the death of a loved one, broken relationships, job loss, financial struggles, persecution, and the consequences of being sinful people living in a fallen world with other sinful people. Dealing with any of these things feels overwhelming at times, and it can be tempting to fall into bitterness, anger, self-pity, or depression.
Romans 1:20-32 reads:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.This passage describes the descent of a sinful human into all kinds of depravity and ultimately, destruction. It's interesting that one of the first steps in that descent is the failure to give thanks.
II Timothy 3:1-5 reads:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.The passage above describes the current state of mankind pretty well. We have even dubbed our current generation of twenty-somethings the "Entitlement Generation." Throughout our culture is a pervasive attitude that we deserve good things, we don't deserve bad things, and that someone owes us something. The attitude of thankfulness is falling by the wayside. Even our national holiday centered on thankfulness has been nearly lost in the frenzy between Halloween (CANDY CANDY CANDY!) and Christmas (PRESENTS PRESENTS PRESENTS!). Thanksgiving Day itself has simply become the day to get geared up for the "biggest
shoppingcoveting day of the year." But don't get me started on that....
For Christians, being thankful isn't just a suggestion limited to the good times. Being thankful is a commandment - at all times and in all circumstances.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. - Psalm 100It seems silly to even have to say this, but just for clarification, I'm not talking about simply sending out thankful vibes into the Universe somewhere. The Bible makes it clear that every blessing we receive is a gift from God:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. - James 1:17-18When we, as Christians, see something (anything) that is good in our lives, we are to give thanks for it and acknowledge that "this good thing here - this is also from the Lord."
If you are unhappy or discontent in your life right now, there is a good chance that you are also ungrateful. I challenge you to start your own list - it can be on a blog or simply in a notebook. When you start looking for the good gifts in your life, you will be amazed at how many there truly are. Learning to be a thankful person has changed my life (because trust me, I'm as prone to covetousness, discontentment, and depression as anyone else), and it can change yours too. If you are struggling with unhappiness or depression, this is the cure.
And so, without further ado, I'll continue my list....
Thanking God today...
391. ... for visits from family.
392. ... for a super deal on a pair of new jeans (68 cents! Yeah, buddy!).
393. ... for getting a lot of pesky to-do items checked off the list last week. <sigh of relief>
394. ... for Josh's upcoming break - can't get here a minute too soon!
395. ... for the man that gave Josh a ride back to his car when he and four of our nephews got stranded out in the middle of the lake in my Papaw's old boat for two hours...
398. ... for a backup laptop for Josh to use (when his bit the dust this week).
399. ... that God knows what we need before we ask.
400. ... for 400 things for which to be thankful (plus so many more!).
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