What is it in our human nature that struggles so hard with thankfulness? Why are our blessings so often on our periphery while our complaints and demands grab our full attention?
We are reminded this week to take time to be thankful. It may, in fact, be the one time each year that a majority of our nation acknowledges reasons for thankfulness. However, a holiday instituted by our nation to direct attention to God has been edged out by a new “holiday” of sorts, in which we forget the blessings we just counted, instead storming the stores and flooding the websites with fresh material pursuits.
The wording of Romans 2:4 resounds within me: “Or do you presume on the riches…?” In that context, the question brought conviction for those who take God’s kindness for granted to keep on sinning, untroubled. The gist of the question brings the same thrust to God’s kindness that has brought us many blessings… but are simply not enough.
What if we invert the question from “Why don’t I have __________?” to “Why do I have __________?” Instead of distraught, forlorn pursuit of the newest smartphone and …, why not ponder how it is that we’ve been given houses, warm clothes, food to eat… how we’ve been “blessed… with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3), such as adoption by God, forgiveness of sin, and a coming inheritance (Ephesians 1:3-14)?
We know the importance of turning our thanks to God, who is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). We might even realize that instead of once per year, we ought to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). But, how do we train our thinking and shift our habits to develop a more natural response of gratitude? It truly is a discipline, and it will take commitment and regular “exercise” to build this pattern into our hearts, minds, and lives.
I find a great amount of help in Colossians 3:15. We get a very simple command: “be thankful.” However, that command is encompassed by two other commands that will help shape a pattern and attitude of gratitude.
First, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Peace with others is a difficult feat. It entails great labor in compassion, patience, forgiveness, and more. As troubles come with others, we will surely be brought to our knees in dependence on the peace that only Christ can give… and a humble adoration that Christ has endured with us in many ways, some of which are initiated by our greed and discontentment from a lack of thankfulness. This obliterates any sense of entitlement that we might tend to hold onto!
Second, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). As we read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture, encouraging others with it and singing its truths, we train our minds with its powerful teaching, and equip ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, who is ready to penetrate us deeply for awesome change. The Word of God is sufficient, even to eradicate complaining and covetousness in our lives, and to empower us with a gratitude that will fulfill our greatest joys as we are satisfied in Christ alone!
Happy Thanksgiving, and may you continue to have a happy thanksgiving in each of the coming days, as you grow in the discipline of gratitude!