Last week, most Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. The holiday was officially put into place by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. This is a time to not only celebrate the harvest but to gratefully praise God for His many blessings. Many families go around the table and recognize something they are most thankful for.
Some of the silly things kids have given thanks for include: ceiling fans, scissors, garbage truck driver, vacuum, snowmen, quesadillas, sparkles, and mermaids. Inherent in this, however, is a true thankfulness for what they have.
The practice of gratitude is a healthy one to cultivate every day. The reality is all too often situations and circumstances hinder our ability to give thanks. Life can get rough and messy. However, even in the mess, there are things for which we can chose to give thanks.
We may know the importance of gratitude and recognize the benefits of it. But we become so caught up in daily stress, burdens, and demands of life, we do not actively give thanks. Recent scientific studies have concluded that the most joyful and healthy people are those who actively practice thanksgiving.
In fact, psychologists today state that sincere gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. Hans Selye, the father of stress studies, stated gratitude produces more positive emotional energy than any other attitude in life.
There are three things that can easily steal our gratitude:
1 – Pride Steals Our Gratitude
If we want to be thankful, we need to get beyond ourselves, our needs, our emotions, our selfish demands. We need to be thankful for what we have, rather than being focused on our lack. Pride says, “I earned this, it is my hard work and effort. Because I worked for this, I am better than you.” Pride can not lead us to gratitude because it relies on self.
Proverbs 16:17-18 states, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall. Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.”
It is difficult to be grateful when you are busy being prideful. Gratitude is an expression of thankfulness to God. It is difficult to thank God for what you have, when you think you are the source of all you have.
2 – Grumbling Steals Our Gratitude
Someone who has a critical spirit is a complainer, a grumbler. The Bible has a lot to say about this negative attitude. Instead of looking for the good, this person finds faults. The person who gripes about what he/she is given instead of giving thanks hurts not only the giver, but also the receiver.
There is a story about a lady known as an incurable grumbler. Her pastor was coming to visit her and thought he had found something about which she would be grateful. Her farm crop was the finest for miles around. When he arrived at her place he met her with a beaming smile. “You must be so happy, your potatoes are the healthiest crop around.” She answered, “True, but what am I going to do when I need bad ones to feed the pigs?”
The Israelites in the Bible were just like that. They didn’t have food and they complained. So God provided them with manna (a honey flavored wafer) to eat every day. They didn’t have water, He provided from a crevice in a rock. They wanted meat, He sent quail. These people had straight up miracles from God every day and they still complained.
They had a grumbling and critical spirit. The Israelites focused on what they didn’t have rather than ALL they did have. That is the same trap for us. Will we be grateful or will we grumble?
Philippians 2:14-15 warns us “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.”
Grumbling robs our ability to be grateful because we focus on lack, rather than abundance. If we change our attitude from grumbling to thankfulness, not only will we have an attitude change, but we will be emotionally healthier.
#3 – Apathy and Complacency Steal Gratitude
Someone once said that if the stars only came out once a year, we would stay out all night to watch them. But they are there every night. We see them ever clear night. We have become so accustomed to them, we rarely notice them.
Complacency is much like apathy. Apathy says, ‘don’t know, don’t care.’ Complacency says ‘I don’t need to care.’ Apathy is a lack of concern. Complacency is a smugness in one’s self. When we become complacent, we stop caring about others which leads to apathy.
Complacency and apathy are the opposite of love. Romans 12:9 states, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” Can we truly love God and not love others? Can we truly love God and not have an attitude of gratitude?
Geoff Moore sings a song Good to Be Alive with these lyrics, “Well I wonder what today will see. Will I find dreams or stare in the face of tragedy? Whatever may come, whatever may be, of this I am sure, I’m forgiven and free. And I will live like I believe — it’s good to be alive.”
Make thanks-giving a habit
We all have times when we face difficulty or tragedy. There are times we despair, maybe even of life itself. But, if we really look at all the benefits of life, we will find it is good to be alive.
The Bible tells us to be thankful in every circumstance. It doesn’t tell us to be thankful for the circumstance. In times of difficulty, doubt, and grief, we can still find things for which to be thankful.
When my kids were young, we would start their nightly prayers, “Thank you Jesus for this day.” Gratefulness was an intentional attitude we tried to teach our children. I remember one night in particular when I realized our daughter had truly learned this value.
She was nine and was sad because her grandpa was sick and in the hospital. She began her nightly prayer with “Thank you Jesus for this day.” She went ahead and finished her prayer. When I asked if she was truly thankful for the day, she answered me, “Yes. At least Papa is alive. And Jesus is with him.”
To sum it up, Psalm 92:1-4 states — “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning…You thrill me, Lord, with all You have done for me!”
When we think of all God has done for us, giving thanks to Him becomes an easy habit. What do you have to thank God for today?