Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.—Psalm 100:4-5
We live in a society that makes it easier to grumble than to be grateful. We have to move someplace we never really wanted to live, and so we grumble. We are disappointed that the political candidate we support isn’t elected, and so we grumble. Daily aggravations can produce grumbling as well: scheduled visits are cancelled, we have to wait for a doctor’s appointment, we look forward to a meal only to be faced with a surly server. All these things and more give us opportunities to grumble.
We even feel justified in our grumbling, don’t we? If we come from the misguided assumption that life should be fair, then grumbling is a given. But what if we change our assumption and our thinking? What if we begin to look, each and every day, not for reasons to grumble, but for reasons to be grateful? What if we could establish a habit of thankful living?
Ann Voscamp wrote a book titled One Thousand Gifts which began as a challenge from a friend to write down 1,000 blessings in her life. Ann’s list far exceeded 1,000 blessings once she opened her eyes to all that was around her. Can we do it? Can we begin to look for opportunities to be grateful rather than opportunities to grumble? Certainly keeping our eyes on God is a good place to start. Ann wrote in her blog, “We will give thanks to God not because of how we feel, but because of who He is.” Let us give thanks.
Can we do it? Can we even convert a life of habitual grumbling into a life of thankful living? With God’s help, and by keeping our focus on Him, we can. Certainly not all of us are grumblers, but all of us can be more aware of the blessings that are ours.
The older we grow, the more blessings we have in our blessings accounts. We enter into a life of thankful living when we spend more time remembering our blessings than fretting about what we don’t have now. For example, those of us blessed to be parents and grandparents can easily find ourselves wishing we could spend more time with those we love, but just the very existence of those people in our families is a blessing, isn’t it?
A woman having breakfast with her husband at a restaurant entered into a discussion with their waitress and found out the waitress was excited about leaving to visit her grandchildren the next day. “How old are they?” the woman asked. “They are six and eight,” the waitress replied. “How long has it been since you’ve seen them?” the woman inquired. “Oh, I’ve never seen them,” the waitress answered. Certainly that puts having to go weeks or months without seeing those we love into perspective, doesn’t it?
Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Philippi, the Book of Philippians in the Bible, while he was in prison in Rome. Certainly Paul had much to grumble about. He was falsely accused and unfairly imprisoned. Yet the Book of Philippians is known as the book of joy! In spite of his circumstances, Paul was able to write a message of joy because of the certainty of his faith in Jesus Christ. His joy and gratitude were based on the eternity he knew was waiting for him, not on the prison cell around him.
We can have the same attitude of gratitude that sustained Paul. We can experience the joy of thankful living by focusing on all that God has done for us—and on our eternal life to come. As Thanksgiving comes this year, let us say along with Paul, “I thank my God” (Philippians 1:3).
(Excerpted in part from The Hope of Glory, Volume Two, publication date TBD.)