Thankfulness is a choice. Every moment of every day we choose our reaction to people and events that surround us. We can choose to be thankful for the wide variety of personalities and experiences God brings into our lives, or we can choose a path of negativity and discontent. Let’s strive to be people who choose the path of thankfulness as we continue training ourselves for godliness.
Thankfulness Not Bubbliness
Choosing thankfulness doesn’t mean we can’t experience the full range of human emotions. Thankful people will still be sad, angry, nervous, and afraid at various times. The difference between choosing thankfulness and criticism is the way we react to what happens.
Thankfulness is optimism in the extreme. We know that God is good and gracious, and God’s promise that he will bring good things out of every situation (Romans 8:28). Do we trust God? Do we really believe he can bring good out of every situation? If we do, then we have a reason to be thankful no matter what is happening. We put our trust in greater things than physical life and worldly success. We are citizens of a heavenly country, and we are awaiting the return of our Savior from that place (Philippians 3:20-21).
Trusting God will bring good from every situation doesn’t mean you have to be a bubbly person. God hardwired some people with “serious” personalities. You don’t have to change how you’re wired to be thankful, you only have to change how you react. When something negative happens, we aren’t thankful for the bad but for the good that will ultimately result from our situation.
Thankfulness and Reality
Thankfulness doesn’t mean pretending. We don’t have to act like bad things never happen. We don’t have to pretend we’re always happy and nothing ever bothers us. Thankfulness is rooted and grounded in the reality that surrounds us. It is God’s power and grace that allows us to be thankful.
It is possible, from a worldly perspective, for events in our lives to be terrible but for the Christian to still be thankful. Maybe the doctors have told us we are dying or someone we love has died. Maybe we’ve lost our job a week before retirement or the school we always thought we’d attend didn’t accept us. In all these and every other situation, we can be thankful to God.
How? How can we be thankful when everything seems wrong?
Thankfulness and Grace
The world has been “wrong” since sin first entered God’s creation. When sin came into the world, everything was broken. From that time forward, nothing has worked the way it’s supposed to. Everything is corrupted, and everyone falls short of the glory God intended for his creation (Romans 3:23). We can be thankful because we know these things before evil befalls us. We shouldn’t expect everything to work out perfectly in our lives because sin dominates and rains in the world. Our thankfulness is ultimately rooted in the God’s grace and mercy.
The cancer patient who is told there’s no hope can be thankful. They have a merciful God who will forgive them of their sins and welcome them home into eternity. They have an amazing God who can use them in the middle of their sickness to testify about the hope of heaven. We aren’t thankful only when things go right for us, we are thankful whenever God’s good grace can be shown to the world through us.
If we lose our job, then there is an opportunity to put our talents to work anew, to meet new people, and to introduce new souls to the Lord. If someone we love has died, then there is an opportunity to remember the brevity of life, the love we share, and an opportunity to renew friendships and relationships. Additionally, it makes our hope real when death interlopes into our lives. If our academic plans didn’t work out as we envisioned, there are new chances at new places with new people.
Thankfulness Makes Healthy Hearts and Minds
Thankfulness keeps our hearts and minds focused on the glory and grace of God that surpasses any good thing available to us in the world. Paul warns us about the descent into darkness and Romans 1:21; that descent begins with unthankfulness.
Without thankfulness, negativity, condescension, hate, and anger rule in our hearts. With souls full of enmity toward God, we make ourselves enemies of the one who wants to bring about our salvation and reconciliation. We cut ourselves off from the only Savior who can make things right.
Our hearts and minds become darkened. Sin affects, morphs, and changes us, sometimes to the point where we no longer see God’s goodness and grace in the world around us. Satan, that prowling lion, deceives us and devours us.
We must choose a better way. We must choose to listen to and follow the light. Jesus has set away before us, a path for us to follow that leads back to God (John 14:6). God has done everything but force us to walk on the path; it is up to us to make that choice, to take the first step. God will help us, guard us, and guide us. He has promised to keep us safe and preserve us for our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5). We cannot work or earn our way to heaven, and God will never owe us his grace. Knowing these things, we should be filled with thankfulness for the salvation God so graciously gives to us.
Becoming Filled with Thankfulness
It’s important to recognize our need for thankfulness, and we must develop habits to encourage thankfulness in our lives. Here are some ways we can all encourage ourselves to grow in thankfulness:
- Remember our hope is in God’s promise to bring ultimate good from everything.
- Determine to thank people at least once in every conversation today.
- Write a thank you note to someone who isn’t expecting one.
- Thank a critical person for helping you to improve yourself.
- Thank someone with authority over you for helping you become better.
- Write a letter to state or federal representatives thanking them for their service.
- Write or call someone in the military to thank them for protecting us.
- Tell a police officer, firefighter, or EMT thank you.
- Thank your children for helping you become better parents.
- Say thank you to your parents for helping you become a better person.
- Thank your spouse for helping you become better every day.
- Tell your close friends thank you for being patient with you and helping you to grow.
- Thank God for something you are struggling with and your spiritual growth.
- Pray to God five times today and thank him specifically for three different things each time.
- Keep a journal and record all the good things that come from your struggles.
Let’s be people who focus on the good God will bring through every circumstance. With our hearts and minds focused on eternity and our true home, we can live lives filled with thankfulness until our Savior comes to bring us home.