“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136.1
Why is gratitude often elusive? Why do I find it all too easy to complain or wallow in self-pity? We all can find a reason to grumble or even defiantly refuse to be thankful, especially in difficult seasons. Disadvantaged childhoods, financial hardship, broken relationships, the death of a loved one, illness, broken dreams, war, poverty, natural disasters, corruption… We all suffer to varying degrees, and our afflictions can seem pointless. Gratitude can also escape me in the good times. I either focus on the minutiae, fussing about the areas where life isn’t perfect, or my pride gets the better of me and I think I’ve accomplished my pleasant circumstances on my own. In suffering or in plenty, the temptation is to look inward.
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Thankfulness is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. God’s people were and are to be a thankful people. The psalmists frequently issue a call to thanksgiving and declare decisively that they will give thanks. God even built a thanksgiving offering into the Old Testament sacrificial system. He insisted that his people give thanks where it was due. Even when their circumstances were less than ideal, they were to remember his goodness in the past and trust him to be faithful to his promises (Deuteronomy 5.15; Psalm 105).
Gratitude is volitional. It’s also a gift of grace. God calls us to give thanks to him, to look up from the brokenness and depravity around and in us and see the beauty of the One whose love is eternally constant. So Paul can encourage us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5.18).
Thankfulness in affliction helps me see God’s faithfulness in small things. It’s a tender mercy in a severe circumstance that moves my heart and mind beyond the temporal to the eternal to see my all-sufficient Savior who provides for every need.
Thankfulness in the mundane seasons of life humbles me and reminds me that I am not my own, again moving my vision from the temporal to the eternal. Complacency breeds ingratitude. I need to be grateful and remember that this world is not my home.
Ingratitude is easy because we and this world are imperfect, damaged by sin and suffering in the fallout, but God calls his people to remember what he has done and find hope in his promises of redemption and restoration. So, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9.1-2).
About the Author:
Bethany Wester a life-long Floridian who enjoys deep conversation, good books, classic movies, traveling, and Florida State football. She is passionate about Jesus, learning the truth of God’s word beside other women, and caring for women and families involved in unplanned pregnancies. Today is her parents’ 46th wedding anniversary, and she’s indescribably thankful for them.