03 Sep Cultivating a Thankful Heart
Dear all, do you find it easier to give thanks, or to complain?
Fallen men all need help to cultivate thankfulness.
It seems like the human tendency is to complain more than to be content with what we have and give thanks. Often, we know the right thing to do is to count our blessings and be grateful to God’s kindness which we sinners do not deserve in the first place. Yet, many a times, we just find ourselves counting our problems, disappointments and displeasures instead. Even if we possess something relatively good, such as a good job, understanding spouse, blessed church, etc., it is always easy to still identify something we are yet to be satisfied with.
In our fallen mind and perspective, bad things seem to catch our attention first and more easily. We tend to notice the things that do not meet our expectations more than cherish the good things we already had. Therefore, we fallen men all need help in learning to give thanks and cultivate a heart of gratitude. For thanksgiving does not come instinctively to us, especially when we face difficult and painful situations. In fact, sometimes, we even need to squeeze out reasons to give thanks to God. Yet we know that constant groaning will only crush our spirits, but thanksgiving can revive our souls and help us find strength in the Lord.
The Bible repeatedly reminds us to give thanks.
(Col 3:15-17) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Beside these verses, there are also many other verses in both the Old and New Testaments to encourage us to give thanks to God.
Gratitude is an intentional perspective.
Author Vaneetha ever gave this example of photographers noticing things ordinary people usually don’t. That is why they can take mind-blowing pictures of even unremarkable objects. For example, we may only see a piece of old furniture, or one dull street, or a simple tree, or an plain-looking person, but through the lens of the photographer, these are turned into beautiful art pieces. The photographer knows exactly which part of the object or person to focus on, to bring out its beauty, capturing its stunning side which is often overlooked. There is this extra attention to details, the ability to look beyond the obvious and the surface to notice little charming features. Often, after seeing their works, we are left wondering why we would have missed the beauty when we look at the very same things the photographer had looked at.
Now, that kind of intentional perspective is what we need when we want to cultivate thankfulness. We must be intentional because we are more used to complaining than to giving thanks. Our eyes are quick to conclude that something is bad and messy, and there is nothing to give thanks for. Our eyes are often so clouded by sin and Satan’s deception that God’s grace is obscure to us. Therefore, we must train our eyes to master the acute eyesight like that of a photographer, to spot God’s grace better. To master that, we need it make it a habit to seek out God’s grace in our lives, just like the photographer is so used to spotting nice details that he gets the hang of it. Sometimes, it is a matter of looking from different angles at the same thing. Corrie Ten Boom had this famous example of two sides of a tapestry. When we look at the wrong side with all the knots and threads entangled, it looked like a hopeless ugly mess. Yet, when we look at the right side, it is actually a beautiful embroidery. In the same way, what looks like a mess in our lives can be God’s masterpiece, He is in the process of weaving our lives, including what we encounter, into a beautiful work (cf. Ro 8:28). So perspective matters. To cultivate gratitude, we must learn to see our lives through the lens of faith. May God open our eyes to notice His grace and faithfulness in our lives, no matter how small the details are.
Cultivate thankfulness by cherishing the unchanging God more than His relative gifts.
Often, what robs us of our gratitude is when we cannot get what we want, or when we see what others have and we got jealous. Just now we said that what we look at matters; when we keep focusing on things that are not stable, our gratitude also fluctuates. However, when we are content with the God who loves us and when we delight in Him, we can always give thanks. Furthermore, the gratitude that God likes is one which rejoices in God Himself more than in simply thanking Him for what He can do or give. Think about it, if a woman is only thankful for the gifts her husband gives her, but does not rejoice because of her husband himself, then her husband is not precious enough in her eyes and he would not be pleased or glorified by that. So if we are can only be thankful for what God gives us but if God Himself does not attract us, then God is nothing more than a tool to give us what we want. How would God be pleased with that? But if we claim that we love God for who He is, then even when He doesn’t give us what we want, we should still be able to give thanks for having Him as our God.
Dear friends, the Bible tells us that “it is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Ps 92:1, ESV). Why? Because gratitude adds joy to us, it helps us affirm God’s grace to us and rejoice in that. Moreover, when our hearts are touched by thankfulness, we are less likely to do anything that upsets the God we are grateful to. So we will think twice about gratifying our flesh and giving in to sin. May God help us all to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving and enjoy our relationship with God more!