“Rejoice always without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-7
Let’s be honest: gratitude comes as natural to most of us as apologizing to someone that we have wronged. It is as innate as immediately yielding to someone else’s preference over your own or being quick to listen and slow to speak. It is as easy to come by as genuinely loving and caring for your enemies. You get the point. It is a trait that we all esteem as valuable and necessary and yet, for most of us, it takes radical discipline to consistently express thankfulness to God for even the smallest of gifts.
About 22,000 times a day we breathe in and out without giving even a second thought to where that breath came from. We enjoy the freedom and convenience of 21st century western civilization without thinking at all about the cost of that freedom. For those who are in Christ, we enjoy the lavish benefits of God’s grace (salvation, redemption, sanctification, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the living word of God, the body of Christ, a relationship with a Holy God) on a daily basis, and still somehow we find reasons to grumble about all the things we feel God is cheating us out of. We are constantly vacillating back and forth between remembrance and forgetfulness when it comes to God’s undeserved grace and provision in our lives.
Our devotion to God is undoubtedly genuine, and yet we lack the kind of thankfulness that would shield our hearts from unbelief and offense when circumstances don’t pan out the way that we hoped they would or thought they should. While our lack of spontaneous and unprovoked gratitude could potentially discourage us, we are not alone or condemned in our falling short.
We can confess right alongside Paul in Romans 7:18 when he said, “nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh, for I have a desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out.” Our nature is broken and our responses are often backwards, but where our brokenness and sin abounds, the grace of God abounds even more.
Even as our frequent lack of thankfulness exposes our sinful nature, our active fight to grow in gratitude highlights the grace of God.
Active thankfulness is antithetical to our sinful nature and it is actually a gift of God’s grace given to us as a weapon of defense against discouragement, unbelief, hopelessness, losing heart…..you can fill in the blank with anything that seeks to distort your view of who God is and His glorious redemptive plan for your life.
So what do we do when we don’t FEEL grateful?
BE GRATEFUL. Thankfulness is not only a feeling, it is an action. It is most effective when it is embodied, spoken (or sung) aloud, and outwardly expressed as worship to God Himself. It is an act of resistance, rooted in the belief that God has given us more than we deserve, despite how we may feel at any given moment.
It is an act of worship that magnifies the goodness and glory of God and puts everything else in its rightful place. We can give thanks in ALL THINGS because we know that God is at work right in the middle of ALL THINGS. And wherever God is present, worship is warranted.
Just like David in Psalm 103, let us instruct our own souls to bless the Lord at all times, and choose to let His praise continually be in our mouths. Let us praise Him again and again and sing the song that the people of faith have been singing for ages!
Take a moment today to call to mind God’s goodness in your life. Take note of even just a few things, however big or small, and ask the Spirit of God to stir up overwhelming gratitude in your heart. Then thank Him for all that He has done and all that He is doing!