Postlude of thanks

joyful

In wrapping up this series on gratitude, I’d like to highlight a few practical ways to infuse our daily lives with thanksgiving and share some of my own reasons for thanksgiving that have come out of reflection on this year’s thorns.

Opportunities to integrate acts and an attitude of gratitude:

  • Find a time each day (or week) that you can regularly spend recounting what has happened that you can give thanks for
  • Expand your view of gratitude beyond immediate things in ‘your world’…what about nature? what about things in the lives of neighbors, friends, family? what finer details of your life are just a given? anything you’ve been overlooking that is worth thanks?
  • Pray for a heart of thanksgiving
  • Partner with someone to encourage accountability. Check in once a week…send a text, email, or call them to see how it’s going
  • Look for opportunities to write a note of thanks or express verbal appreciation for people around you (friends, family, co-workers, roommates, professors, etc.)
  • Branch out…even to some folks you might not know as well…i.e. sending a letter or email of thanks to one of your church’s mission partners for the work they are doing
  • When you have a situation that would tempt you to complain, examine if there might be some aspect of God’s provision in it…even if you cannot see anything, entrust it to the Lord, letting Him know you are confident He is able to use even that for good.
  • Spend some time reading through scriptures expressing gratitude.
  • Set aside time each week or month to sing some hymns of thanks to God.
  • Journal about your history with God…the ways He’s acted on your behalf and through your life up until this point.

If you have an idea…please add it to the comments section! 🙂

Here are some things I’m thankful for this year:

  • A more comprehensive knowledge of Scripture
  • A deeper sense of God’s sovereignty and His goodness…even when I don’t understand
  • The rich blessing of working in women’s ministry and seeing the harmony of very different ladies coming together for a common goal
  • A spirit of partnership among colleagues at the library
  • My parents and my younger brother…for their quiet moments of support
  • A ‘yes’ from the Lord this semester about attending a class. I missed school.
  • Believers who have been faithful before our generation and recount their stories in books and in music, so we can hold fast to them today
  • People who I might not even realize who have prayed for me this year. I felt their prayers and truly can’t imagine where I would have been without them.
  • A stirring desire to take up ballet again these last few days…it usually brings me joy, but while I’ve been very sad this year, it felt like a weighty burden instead and so I’d let it go
  • His presence in places no one else could enter; His persistence when I wanted Him to go away; His love as I saw so much in me that was unlovely; His confidence that this chapter will not be the end of the story He has written for me

Thanks for reflecting on these things with me. God’s grace to you!

Thanks…for thorns

rose

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10

I’ve been working my way up to a post on thanks for things that we didn’t want to happen, or things that we’ve asked for and haven’t received. This morning, I listened to one of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s podcasts on gratitude that relayed a prayer that is so fitting for this discussion. Here it is:

George Matheson was a 19th-century Scottish preacher who lost his eyesight at a very early age. As he wrestled over this set of circumstances, he eventually prayed this prayer:

Dear God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I’ve thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear. Teach me the value of my thorns.

Oh, that we can learn what it means to offer thanks and praise to God even for the things we wish He would change, or fix, or take from us!

Are there any thorns in your life that you’ve prayed for God to take away, that you might serve Him better? Can you find some aspect of that thorn that can be used for His glory?

When I think of thorns in my own life, I rarely think of them as blessings or avenues of God’s provision. I generally view them as limitations and places where I don’t measure up. Nevertheless, thorns keep me humble where I might otherwise be proud. Thorns soften my heart in places where it would be hardened. Thorns permit me to reach the end of self and find I’m desperately lacking and in need of Him.

Perhaps in my most recent wrestling with thorns, I have discovered that true beauty of character seems to be somehow connected to the presence of thorns in our midst and the way that we choose to respond to them when faced with the reality that they won’t simply go away.

Friends, may we be found faithful with the thorns He has permitted, in His sovereignty, through His love, and for His purposes.

Here’s an excellent song for giving thanks in every set of circumstances!

But, I don’t feel like giving thanks…

What are some of the alternatives to thanks-giving?

Sometimes, we just don’t ‘feel‘ like expressing thanks. Here are a few illustrations of the repercussions when people don’t offer thanks:

Romans 1:21:  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ephesians 5:4 “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Allow me to summarize a bit, then. Sometimes when our hearts are inclined to be ungrateful, we are more susceptible to the ways of the world and the call of Madam Folly (see Proverbs). Other times, we might find our lips mocking, joking, or condemning instead of offering thanks, praise, and encouragement. Still other times, we are gripped with anxiety when we focus on our circumstances rather than God, who is always greater than our need. Each of these instances tear down our relationship with the Lord and with others.

So, scripture instructs us instead to praise Him, give Him glory, offer up thanks, and pray with anticipation that God provides.

This past week, I’ve been setting aside time each morning on my way to work to give thanks for things God is doing, who He is, and how He has provided. When an upsetting time came up this weekend, I actually thought to myself, ‘Alright, what out of this can I give thanks for?’ Friends, that’s not like me. If nothing else, I could say thanks that the Spirit is working that I would ask such a question when I’m prone to mentally itemizing every detail that is going wrong!

As I was listening to this week’s sermon, I was gently reminded to expect opposition. Here I am, asking the Lord to help me change an area of my life where He hasn’t been on the throne. I’ve let doubt, fear, and complaint take their turns sitting there, instead. That’s not going to be a smooth transition; trials will come and have already arrived. But God has taught us to give thanks anyway. He modeled it through Jesus and He equips us to do so by the work of His Spirit.

Scriptures on thanks

Gratitude is “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others.”

Scripture has much to say about giving thanks. In the Old Testament, there are repeated references to giving God thanks because of His goodness and enduring love (1 Chronicles 16:34), His trustworthiness (Psalm 28:7), salvation (Psalm 118:21), and His answers to and provision for our requests (Daniel 2:23). The New Testament writers highlight the benefits of life in Christ, such as: grace in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4), victory in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57), generosity that overflows into thanks (2 Corinthians 9:11-12), peace of Christ (Colossians 3:15,17), that the kingdom cannot be shaken (Hebrew 12:28, and that Jesus will be the one on the throne forever (Revelation 4:9).

In reviewing passages that address thanks and thankfulness, it’s apparent that the emphasis is on directing our thoughts and our hearts towards the Lord. It is He who we have to thank, for who He is, for what He has done, and for what He will yet do with us, through us, and in us. So part of having a thankful heart involves looking up rather than inward or outward for reasons to be joyful and glad. As our eternal focus grows, we can sincerely learn what it means to give thanks no matter what is headed our way on earth. The deepest things we really have to be thankful for are grounded in our Lord and Savior, not in our circumstances or abilities. These things are always true and solid, even when our journey looks grim and our efforts are feeble.

May the Lord help us to recall who He is and what He has done with fresh faith and genuine gratitude.

I was particularly excited about this verse…“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Watermark has a simple, but excellent song about our gratitude for salvation in Christ that I’ve been mulling over recently.