God gave instruction concerning thankfulness over 3000 years ago. It is an important subject that is so easy to take for granted and even dismiss. He says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” Psalm 100:4. This ageless, wise advice has shaped the lives of millions. It is only in the last few years that secular health researchers have discovered that thankfulness makes us healthier and happier.
It was while I was sitting in the hospital waiting room, whittling away my time reading secular magazines, that I stumbled across several articles concerning this very subject. It appears that research now confirms that people who show gratitude are healthier, sleep better than their ungrateful peers, have better relationships, and generally have more productive lives. Voilà! One such research test was done at the University of Manchester, England, where 401 people filled out questionnaires that rated their gratitude. The response showed those who scored highest in gratefulness slept longer and better than less-appreciative participants.
Thanksgiving is an outpouring of the very root of the soul. It is a reflection of the heart. It reveals peace. It is the presence of goodwill toward others. It is easy to understand how a person who goes to bed with negative thoughts will be too troubled to sleep well. As I thought about thanksgiving, the ramifications were endless. Thankfulness is key to honoring God, worshiping God, and serving God. It paves the road to a wholesome life, a restful life, a peaceful life—a happy life. Wow, how important such a simple thing as being thankful can be! How easy to lose sight of this simple act, and it is an ACT of the will, something you CHOOSE.
Thankfulness is an act of the will. It is making a conscious decision that God is worthy and should be praised and thanked no matter what the circumstance. When we have that attitude toward God, we stop having a critical attitude toward others. We look at every event as an occasion for learning.
Have you ever felt like your life is just wasted? You are treading on unthankful waters. Expect to sink.
Have you ever just brooded and wished he wouldn’t...? Go easy, it sounds like a lack of gratitude is stealing your peace.
Would you like to see someone fail, really hit the floor? Hmmm... read on for SURE.
Several years ago some old missionaries sent me a book they had written called An Attitude of Gratitude. What they lacked in ability in writing, they made up for in a life of thankfulness. As I read their story, it struck me how they found joy in the smallest things of life and covered a multitude of sorrow with thanksgiving. On the cover, their old faces were wrinkled with lines as they smiled at the camera. As I stared at their picture, I felt their thankfulness. I am sure it was and still is a sweet savor to God. I have often asked myself, is my life a reflection of that kind of gratitude?
Our natural bent is to be unthankful; most people go through life feeling unhappy, and this is an affront to God. It is a silent scream that we are dissatisfied or unthankful. It is a child’s natural reaction to whine and gripe about his food, clothes, or any other thing he wants. To ignore this as an ugly attitude that will pass is training him to dishonor God with a spirit of unthankfulness, and it is setting up his life to be one of discontent. But how can we train our children to be thankful if we, ourselves, live in that state?
When my oldest daughter was about 12 years old, I suddenly woke up to the fact that she lacked joy in her life. As a young mother, I wanted her to be happy, to thrive, and to find great contentment in creativity, but I had no idea how to make this happen. One day I was reading aloud Psalms 30:9–12 when I noticed my younger children dancing around with their hands in the air. I glanced down and read again, “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”
That day I set up a homeschool project for my daughter. She was to find all the words in the Bible that were connected with the word JOY. Over the next few weeks, her notebook was filled with verses on thanksgiving, dancing, laughter, sacrifice, and gladness. She taught me as she studied. What impressed me more than anything was the fact that thanksgiving was a sacrifice of praise and worship. Sacrifice—something I did that was not a natural happening. The opposite would also stand true. Being down-in-the-mouth was unthankfulness, which would be an insult toward God. I have a naturally upbeat personality, but there were times when I was stressed and I immediately recognized it as what it was—unthankfulness.
So I ask myself, what is a source of stress or ingratitude in my life? Sometimes, it is a simple thing, such as being under too much pressure to perform—basically, too much to do with too little energy to see it through. Mike always says life is better if you organize and manage. Hiring a young girl to help homeschool, clean house, and cook helped me get focused on important issues. I traded vegetables with her mother because we didn’t have money to spare for paying a helper. The results were wonderful. As my daughter continued her study on joy, I continued to search my life for ways I could dwell on thanksgiving. God began a work in both of us; really our whole family benefited from this study. The word of God was quick and powerful in our lives as we sought to honor God through being thankful.
For some people, the issue of unthankfulness runs much deeper. I must admit after all these years of counseling that my first thought when I think of an unthankful person is that bitterness has taken root.
Bitterness is a very troublesome word and certainly a taxing state of mind. The worst thing about bitterness is that it is so catchy. It is like the pandemic flu that all health officials dread. Some people spend their whole life in a state of bitterness and never recognize it for what it is. They are just vexed in their souls about so-and-so or this-or-that.
Bitterness causes a person to perceive hurt. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” God says look diligently because it takes real focus to avoid catching the flu of bitterness.
A young man is bitter at his parents, and he marries. Bitterness does not allow his brain to ever really rest. His mind is forever devising contrived conversations that will convince everyone how terribly he has been treated. These unsavory thoughts spill out, defiling those around him. It is sad how bitterness defiles whole families, following generation after generation. A mother who is bitter with her husband passes it along to her daughter and causes that young girl to be irritated and take offense, often blaming her hormones for her anger. Her life becomes one of being annoyed. Her husband walks on edge, wondering what will set her off. Or in many cases, it is the man who is mad at the world and makes his family miserable. Bitterness never stays put; it eventually spreads to taint how you react to your spouse, fellow worker or boss, and folks at church, and as you raise your children, you will become bitter toward them and they you. They grow up viewing life through your bitter, ungrateful eyes. Sleep eludes the bitter soul. Restless nights give evidence of a troubled mind and an unthankful heart.
Don’t let bitterness eat away all that is joyful and good in your life. Take a good look at yourself instead of looking at others, and declare war on unthankfulness.
God can do for you what he did for me. He is waiting to hear you say, what is it in my life that makes me unthankful?
His WORD is effectual. It is alive and working, able to change you as you study it. Open your Bible and do a study on joy or thankfulness. Look up every time the words appear, and list the words it is coupled with. Then begin to choose thankfulness—all day, every day. Practice saying thank you to God. When you feel sad, mad, depressed, or irritated, STOP and (out loud) thank God that he is able to change your heart and break this chain of unthankfulness.
Our lives are meant to be filled with joy, gladness, thankfulness, and rejoicing. It is praise to God for us to live our lives in this state. Anything less is... well, we will not go there. Enough said. Rejoice; and again I say, rejoice.