There is one day in a year here in the United States on which it is easy for people to remember to be thankful: Thanksgiving Day, of course. But each of us, if we think carefully about it, should be able to find many things to be thankful for every other day of the year. The trouble is, the evil one has so many tools at his disposal to steal joy and thankfulness from us–national news outlets, social media, and even our own tendency to focus more on the challenges in a day than the innumerable blessings God showers upon us, just to name a few.
But here’s the thing: the best antidote for lack of gratitude–as well as fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, impatience, sadness, and almost any other negative feeling–is to be thankful. This may seem both obvious and counterintuitive, but if you think honestly and creatively about anything, you should be able to come up with reasons to be thankful for that thing.
Hate your job? Try thanking God for it every day for a week. Thank Him for the abilities and opportunities He has given you that enable you to have that job. Thank Him for the way the job allows you to support yourself and others. See if this changes how you feel about your job, even just a little.
Impatient with a child? Thank God for that child and the time you have to spend with her or him. Remember that there are people who would like to have a child but are unable to do so. Others who had a child but lost them through tragic circumstances. Still others with children from whom they are separated. There are many ways your circumstance with your child could be worse and far more painful. Perhaps doing this every day for a week will help you be more patient with that child.
Anxious or fearful of what the future holds? Thank the One who holds the future, remembering to trust Him more than you trust yourself or your spouse or any company or country.
I could go on.
Here are a couple of other quick observations about being thankful.
First, thankfulness needs to be directed at someone. This is reflected in the more formal way of expressing gratitude: “thank you.” There’s a notion that seems to be gaining some traction these days of assuming a posture of gratitude. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but the problem in our modern secular culture is that when people are grateful in general for the blessings in their lives, they tend to direct their gratitude toward things other than the One who gave them those blessings–“the universe”, various forms of a great life force, or even goodness (instead of God, as in substituting “thank goodness” for “thank God”). This is all nonsense. As the hymn suggests:
Second, it’s not just my idea to thank God every day. The Bible tells us that each of our prayers should be sent to God on the wings of gratitude (Philippians 4:6). It commands us to thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It reminds us that God’s peace walks in lockstep with thankfulness (Colossians 3:15). It suggests that we enter into His presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). In short, we should always thank God for everything (Ephesians 5:18b-20).