January 9, 2013

Changed by two words

Yesterday I read about a preacher who was known for his thankful attitude. One Sunday morning, nothing seemed right, including the weather. The congregation wondered how their pastor would respond to all of the misery and disasters that had befallen them that day. Their curiosity was rewarded by this, “I thank God that every day is not like this one.”

The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I notice it does not say to give thanks for the circumstances, but in the circumstances. For instance, my credit card was hacked. I’m not thankful that happened, but I can be thankful that I discovered the problem almost as soon as it happened, that the charges on my account were under $100, and that the credit card company removed them and is sending me a fraud report form.

It is easy to be thankful to God for everything that is pleasant. Today’s devotional writer (the same person who wrote yesterday’s reading) says that Christians are often sharing how God blessed them in affliction, but we often overlook the other side; we fail to thank God for the good things.

I’ve noticed this is true. I enjoy my family, work, studies, friends, home, and so on, but when I fail to be thankful, I start taking those good things for granted, even expecting them as my ‘right’ and having an attitude of entitlement. This shows up whenever any ‘good’ thing is delayed or denied.

I know God wants me to be joyful, but that joy is not found in having everything I want. My joy always come from Him. Today’s devotional points out that it is far more important to like what I have and be thankful for it, than to have everything that I want, which could be an impossible dream.

I’m supposed to be thankful in painful situations too. That could mean being thankful the situation is no worse than it is, but it could also mean being thankful for what that situation is doing (or supposed to do) in my Christian development. Is it making me more aware of God’s grace and mercy? Is it helping me better understand the needs of others? Is it helping me be more compassionate, thoughtful, merciful?

As the New Year began, I went back to keeping a gratitude journal. Some items are big things like salvation, safety and food on the table. Others seem smaller, like fresh baked bread, clean laundry, playful kittens, but in thanking God for the lesser blessings, I become as overwhelmed with gratitude for them as I do for life and health and all the vital good gifts. That gratitude is always accompanied by joy and peace. Saying thanks is a life-changer.

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