This time of year it’s everywhere. It’s on coffee mugs, sweatshirts, wall hangings, and Instagram. Next time you are in Hobby Lobby, go ahead and count how many times you see it, somewhere, on something: Thankful. Grateful. Blessed.
It rolls off my tongue in a pleasant cadence and brings a smile to my lips as I briefly consider the truth it contains. I inwardly nod my head in agreement to all three: “Yes, I am!”
Yet, almost immediately the consideration is pushed aside as I attend to whatever urgent thing requires my attention. But shouldn’t it be more than a passing thought, a pretty social-media post, or a cute t-shirt?
Thankfulness is being conscious of the benefits I receive and the pleasure I get from them. Gratefulness is appreciation for the opportunity to experience those benefits. Acknowledgment should lead to contentment and enjoyment, a sense of blessedness with the things my Heavenly Father has graciously given to me.
But as I search my heart, I fear that I have taken for granted the many gifts I have received. I am like the Israelites, poking sleepy heads out of their tents in the morning with the entitled expectation of manna covering the ground, finding it there, yet grumbling at its constancy.
“What is the root sin, the molten core of wickedness? It’s thanklessness.” Mark Buchanan in The Holy Wild, Multnomah, p.105
Numbers 11:1 records God’s chastisement for their ungratefulness:
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the ears of the LORD; and the LORD heard them and His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some at the outskirts of the camp. (NASB2020)
Yes, I can expect God to do what He promises; but not because the Israelites, or I, deserve it—because of His character. It’s easy to criticize the Israelites as they did not see the miracle of God’s love for them bestowed in such a practical way. But then I have to query myself: Do I recognize and appreciate the daily provision that comes from the hand of God? And if I do, how do I practice gratefulness for it?
I can look to the Psalms to remind me to lift my voice in praise and thanksgiving in honor of the Lord.
Psalm 69:30, ESV: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 50:23, NLT: "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”
Praying with thanksgiving, rejoicing in the opportunity Jesus Christ has given me to approach the throne of God, reminds me of who I was and who I now am in Christ. I am left with deep gratitude for my salvation.
Remembering all that comes from the hand of My Father is also a key component in thankfulness. In Exodus 16, once again the grumbling Israelites show not only ungrateful hearts but incredible forgetfulness concerning their life as slaves in Egypt.
They looked past the providence of their freedom and saw only what they thought they lacked.
Warren Wiersbe says: “The person who has gotten accustomed to his blessing can never be satisfied.”
I don’t want to be so comfortable in my blessed position that I become ungrateful and unsatisfied. I want to say with the Psalmist: For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Psalm 107:9, ESV).
I can use my words and my life to show my thankfulness, by speaking to others of His goodness and obeying what He has called me to do:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV
A practice of thankfulness will deepen my faith and draw me nearer to God, allowing me to approach even the most difficult circumstances with gratitude, trusting that my Heavenly Father will work my good and His Glory.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — G.K.Chesterton