Choosing to Become Thankful

thankful

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story. (Psalm 107:1-2)

Thankfulness begins with our attention on the right sort of object. The object presented to us in Psalm 107 is God Himself. We read that God is Yahweh – the Savior, that God is good, that God is steadfastly loving and faithful.

When we turn our attention appropriately to God, things change. Perhaps our outward circumstances do not change, but we gain perspective on where we stand. And that shift in perspective brings a change in the way that we engage with our circumstances.

The message of the Bible is that Jesus Christ has not only shown us what God is like but has invited us into real relationship with God – where all the riches found in God are ours. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” If this isn’t a reason to be thankful, I don’t know what is.

You see, thankfulness begins when our attention is on the right sort of object. However, we often become overwhelmed and our attention turns to the things that frustrate or pain us. We could make a list of them sometimes: losing loved ones, job challenges or loss, broken relationships, financial troubles, the difficulties in our neighborhood or the world around us, and much more. At certain times we could start to recount and pile up all the things that have gone wrong. We start to recite them and cling to those terrible things as if they are the sweetest candy. We suck on them and feed on them to our own destruction. We practice the presence of our problems instead of practicing the presence of the Lord.

Now, there is an old song that says:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

The encouragement of the verses in that song are really good advice. We should count our blessings.  It is far easier to notice what is wrong – what is foul – what is lacking – than it is to count our blessings.

George Buttrick, a powerful preacher in early 20th century New York, spoke to this very topic. He tells this story:

A lecturer to a group of businessmen [who] displayed a sheet of white paper in which was one dark blot. He asked what they saw. All answered, a blot.’ The test was unfair; it invited the wrong answer. Nevertheless, there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the…disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy. We need to deliberately call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin: we could never end: there are not pens or paper enough in all the world. The attempt would remind us of our ‘vast treasure of content.’[1]

As Buttrick said, we need to “deliberately” call to mind the goodness of God. We need to count our blessings. Like the psalmist, we need to remember God’s good help and deliverance when we cry out to Him. Most of all, we need to remember the salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ. When we count our blessings, and put our attention on the abundant goodness of God, something begins to change as we choose to become thankful.

Ann Voskamp, in her beautiful memoir, One Thousand Gifts, writes: “the first sin of all humanity [is] the sin of ingratitude.”[2]

May we be those who respond differently. May we look to God – His character, His power, His abundance – and be thankful.

 


[1] Quoted in James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 67-68.

[2] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 15.

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