Give Thanks More than Once a Year
For some, 2020 has made it more difficult to be thankful. Everything that once brought us life feels disrupted. Difficult circumstances we cannot control have robbed us of what we could otherwise enjoy. The worst thing we can do is grumble out loud (and online) or dispute silently within ourselves. I have learned the hard way how this kind of approach makes things worse. What begins as a spark of complaint quickly rages into a fire of contempt. One word of criticism, one heated conversation, one angry post, even one snarky comment quickly leads to another and another and another. The best thing we can do in these kinds of circumstances, is give thanks.
The scientific benefits of "giving thanks" are well documented, even the world knows the power of thanksgiving. It shouldn't matter though. What matters is that God has called us to GIVE thanks, genuinely, actively, and confessionally. God does not command us to give thanks because he's weary of our whining. On the contrary, God commands us to give thanks because he loves us and wants what's best for us.
There is, perhaps, nothing less "Christian" than an ungrateful life governed by an ominous fear of the future. More than anyone, Christians should live with a sense of hope (against all hope - Romans 4.18) because we do not walk by sight but by faith. So, even if we don't quite "feel" thankful we know, by faith, there are many things to be thankful for. Most of the things that I refer to here are those essential things which we often take for granted. Of course, once we lose them, we notice--as this pandemic has revealed. But there is also a gratitude for the little things in life like a good coffee, a favorite chair, or a VW bug. This is an "Ecclesiates" kind of gratitude: "There is nothing better than to be joyful and to do good as long as you live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man" (Ecc 3.12-13). What might happen we viewed all of life as a gift-, not just the big things in life like family or friends, but even the little things. It seems as if taking a disposition where all "life is a gift" implies gratitude toward a gift-giver. Essentially, gratitude draws us closer to God.
But this doesn't happen naturally. Because, in our flesh, we are predisposed towards ingratitude (See Romans 1.21) we remain relatively silent. At least until Thanksgiving. Even then, when asked: "What are you thankful for?" we typically survey all the things we have, ignoring the things that we don't (but wanted). What if we were to consider all that we have and all that we don't have as a gift from God? In order to become a person who exudes thankfulness, pressing deeper into the presence of God in the process, we need to develop a habit of thankfulness. We need to literally speak aloud what we are thankful for, certainly to and in front of others, but ultimately before God. We will only develop a habit if we practice. Many of us are not developing a new habit as much as replacing an hold one--we likely tend to complain each day, and that out loud for God and others to hear. To combat this, instead of telling you WHAT to be thankful for, I am going to equip you by suggesting HOW.
Be thankful for one thing each hour. Be thankful for one thing each day. Be thankful for one thing each week. Be thankful for one thing each month. Be thankful for one thing each year.
It doesn't matter WHAT you are thankful for, only THAT you are thankful to someone, namely, God. Just like our Thanksgiving celebrations provide annual accountability, we need to discipline ourselves by setting a reminder on your calendar--each hour, each day, each week, and each month. After a year, or even 21 days of doing this, I wonder how we might be changed.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;