Pumpkins are out, the smell of cinnamon spice is in the air, turkeys are on sale at the supermarket and children at school are making lists of things they are grateful for.
It's that time of year again.
It's easy to make "I'm Thankful For" lists and it's not too difficult to share one thing you're grateful for around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It's easy to learn how to behave like a Christian. It's easy to memorize the religious language. What isn't easy is actually being grateful. What isn't easy is living a life of thankfulness, especially when you are bubbling over with anger because of your circumstances.
Gratitude is what should permeate the life of a Christian, not just during the month of November, but every single day of the year. But because there are plenty of situations and events that are painful and even life-altering, we end up scratching our heads and wondering how it could be possible to exhibit gratitude when we don't like what's happening. How are we supposed to be grateful for death? Or divorce? What about a bad prognosis from the doctor? Should we be thankful for financial ruin or for a broken heart?
I was just a few weeks away from my thirtieth birthday when I found myself seriously questioning if I was grateful to be a child of God. Everything came to a screeching halt and all thoughts of thankfulness flew right out the window. As time went on, I found myself pretending to be spiritual, trying to convince myself and the world that I believed God was good when, deep down, I wondered if He really was. I didn't know how to truly praise Him when I had tears of pain in my eyes. I was not grateful for a failed marriage and a shattered heart. I was not grateful for my children's tears or for health problems that surfaced because of the stress. Reading the book of Psalms where, again and again, we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord with reminders that He is good felt so... so ridiculous to me. Bitterness spread and defiance rose up.
My heart screamed "I will NOT be grateful for THIS."
You may have been there and your heart may have said the same kind of things in the past, but in His rich kindness, The Lord bears with all of our outbursts and holds on to us as we jerk away in anger. And in His goodness, He teaches us that He is not good because life is easy, nor is He worthy of praise because we feel no pain. He is deserving of our thanksgiving because He - in and of Himself - is a good God. He is good because He is love. He is worthy of praise because He atones, redeems, restores and preserves us. Life may crumble but that never, ever affects the reality of Who Christ is and what He has done for us. We are urged to give thanks to God for His own love and mercy, not merely exhibit a form of thankfulness for destruction.
We may lose wealth or health or family, much like Job in the Bible, but nothing we possess can supersede what we have in Jesus, and that is the point of it all. Rather than allowing our frustration to taint the goodness of our Maker, we ought to give thanks to the One Who sits high above all the residue of a fallen world. We aren't worshipping situations. We are worshipping the Savior. We are not giving thanks for the bad we endure, we are giving thanks to the One Who sustains us in every trial and Who is the Perfecter of our faith. It's easy to mumble a few nice sounding words of thanks while sitting next to aunt Martha on Thanksgiving Day, but God knows the state of our hearts and how we really feel as we gobble up that turkey and dressing. We can't fool Him with our cute lists and pleasant smiles. He knows that our hearts are not filled to overflowing with gratitude because our eyes are looking at everything except Him. If we are not grateful, it means we are dwelling on the consequences of sin instead of dwelling on the perfect Sacrifice that came to save us out of our sin.
Tell your heart to be thankful for our great Savior. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! As you reach for another piece of pie, make sure you magnify the name of God for filling the hungry with good things and for giving us the hope we have in His salvation.
For more on this topic, study:
1 Samuel 2:1-10; 2 Samuel 22; 1 Chronicles 16:8-11;
The Book of Job; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:1-2;
Psalm 30; Psalm 44:8; Psalm 54:6;
Psalm 79:13; Psalm 92; Psalm 100:1-4;
Psalm 106:1-3; Psalm 107; Psalm 116:1;
Psalm 118:21; Psalm 126:1-3; Psalm 138:2;
Psalm 145:10; Isaiah 25:1; Romans 6:17;
1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14;
2 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 9:15;
Ephesians 5:4; Philippians 4:6;
Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18;