I get it. I am truly blessed and duly grateful, too. I’m grateful for any day of late that feels more like fall than summer. And for the birds outside my window that I love listening to most mornings. Grateful for the work that is waiting for me each day: good work that I enjoy; work that consistently puts gas in the car and groceries in the pantry and gives my heart and mind a workout in the process. Grateful for the friends whose questions keep me honest and whose prayers keep me close. For a husband and little boys that I adore. For parents who believed in me no matter what goofy thing I did. For big stuff like life and health and small stuff like raspberries available in spring and glory of autumn in October and November. For things hoped for and things unexpected.
Mostly, though, I’m grateful that my heart knows whom to thank for all the goodness that is mine. Sure, the list of things is gratifying, but it’s the Giver who really makes my heart sing. Any gift divorced from its giver is a lifeless thing; I’m grateful God “leaves the tags on” for me so I can see where all the best stuff comes from.
God has enabled me to see with what I'm calling his gratefulness glasses. It doesn't come easily for me. My mother only asked me to count my blessings once a year at thanksgiving so it wasn't a habit for me. I had to meet people who I thought were worse off but had great perspective.
I recently talked to a godly young man named Brian who suffered severe burns in an industrial accident more than a decade ago. He lost 90 percent of the skin on his body, lost his eyesight, and had two arms and a leg amputated. As I listened to him, I was astonished at his utter lack of self-pity; on the contrary, he expressed great thanks for how God used the injury to cement his faith. He has become a tower of strength, and as he described his relationship with his wife, I marveled at the obvious intimacy of their relationship on all levels, even in the face of such a debilitating injury.
I compared his Christlike, thankful spirit with my own whining when I suffered a common foot injury this past spring and had to take a few weeks off —and I just sighed. In a fallen world we can develop a radically unrealistic perspective. One severely disabled man said, “When you’re a quadriplegic, you look at a paraplegic and think, ‘Man, they’ve got it made!’ “ When we feel sorry for ourselves, we work against finding positive solutions. Brian can’t see his wife, and he’ll never be able to hug her, but he can talk to her, pray with her and for her, and comfort her with wise words of love, care, and concern. Through the Internet, he has even discovered ways to buy her presents without her knowing about it ahead of time.
Sometimes, in God’s providence, certain pleasures may be closed to us, as they have been to Brian. God says, in effect, “This is not for you, at least not now.” We have to trust him to provide alternate pleasures —perhaps of an entirely different sort —that will sustain us in our trials.
The bottom line is without gratitude we are wallowing in our selfishness. With gratitude we can see with our Godly glasses on.
Feelings of entitlement feed anger; feelings of thankfulness swell our souls and can make us tear up with overflowing gratitude.
Thanking God helps us recognize what pleasures we have while at the same time increasing our pleasure. Only when we become grateful for what we do have, or what we might work toward, do we find true joy.
When we look at life through these Godly glasses, we become lost in wonder and convinced of God’s astounding generosity, marvelous mercy, and gigantic grace. Sin causes us to look at life through the lens of entitlement —that we deserve salvation without repentance, wealth without work, accolades without self-denial, health without personal discipline, pleasure without sacrifice. Biblical truth reminds us that, in reality, we deserve hell.
Every small laugh, each tiny expression of joy, a simple meal —indeed, every single moment lived outside of the agony of hell —truly is an undeserved gift. When we add the assurance that the completed work of Christ guards our eternal destiny, our lives should radiate not merely joy but wonder and astonishment at how good God truly is.
What are you grateful for—and for whom? What satisfies your soul and makes your heart sing? Whose presence blesses you like crazy? What beauties threaten to take your breath away? You really should thank Someone, don’t you think?
Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures. JAMES 1:17-18 HCSB