"For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?" (Ecclesiastes 2:25)
A life that is severed from God cannot experience true joy. However, everyone, regardless of their eternal destiny, has reasons for thanksgiving. God manifests his goodness by supplying our needs daily. Even the unsaved are provided with food, clothing, and other necessities. But because of their unregenerate condition, they are incapable of heartfelt gratitude. Unfortunately, Christians frequently fall into the habit of complaining—some more, some less. We are contented as long as life continues as normal, but what if all that changed? Would we be thankful?
The Israelites didn't complain about luxuries they'd never had, but about the opulence of Egypt. It's depressing that we rarely appreciate someone or something until we lose them. The deaf, blind, and crippled are the only ones who truly understand the blessing of sound, sight, and a walk down the street. Never take your loved ones for granted; you might not see them tomorrow. Perhaps one of the reasons God takes His blessings away is to open our eyes, helping us to see tomorrow's joys clearer than we did yesterday's.
"Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this." (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
We are all guilty of dreaming of having this or that. Our minds can become so entangled in possessions that only God can unravel the knots. We think happiness can be bought. Maybe that is because fun is confused with happiness. Fun can indeed be bought—theme park tickets, ice cream, movies—but not happiness. All these are temporal delights that won't last to eternity. "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). It is best "not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it" (Proverbs 23:4).
If anyone had a right to complain, it was Christ. He left the splendor of heaven to sojourn on earth. He was accustomed to glory, riches, and joy. The earthly poverty and pain must have been unbearable. Yet He did not utter a single complaint. His words were ones of gratitude (Matthew 15:36, 26:27, Luke 22:19, John 6:11). We must acquire a thankful heart, not for what we will have but what we do have. This mandates an attitude adjustment. "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).
People with a positive perspective are bound to live a happier life than those who dwell on the negative. "I want that shirt" becomes "Wow, I can't believe I have all these nice clothes!" "I have such a lousy job" becomes "God, thank You for this paycheck." When we focus on what we have, all the things we want fade into insignificance. "All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:15).
As John MacArthur once wrote, "If you question the love and goodness of God to all, look again at the world in which we live. Someone might say, 'There's a lot of sorrow in this world.' The only reason the sorrow and tragedy stand out is because there is also much joy and gladness. The only reason we recognize the ugliness is that God has given us so much beauty. The only reason we feel the disappointment is that there is so much that satisfies" (The Truth About Grace, p. 8-9).
"If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (1 Timothy 6:8)
No one's life is so awful that there's absolutely nothing to be thankful for. It's easier to appreciate the greater blessings such as your family, friends, home, food, and water. However, that's no excuse to forget the little blessings. Even toothpaste. Yep, it's something most people aren't exactly thankful for, but it keeps our teeth from rotting out. And if our teeth fell out, we couldn't eat, and if we couldn't eat we'd die (okay, we probably wouldn't die because we could just get fake teeth, but still). I know that's an extreme way of looking at it, but if it helps us to be grateful, isn't it worth a try? If we counted our blessings of every size, the number would be staggering and the list unending! I've found I’m more thankful if I actually list some of my blessings in prayer rather than if I thank God for an unnameable blob of blessings I don't take the time to mention.
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28)
As Christians, we have numerous reasons to be thankful. But our primary impetus is our salvation. Through death, pain, poverty, hunger, and thirst, the reality of salvation endures. This is the greatest, most precious gift. It distinguishes us from others. How can we ever be ungrateful with such a wonderful assurance? How can any earthly blessing compare? Remember your salvation the next time you're tempted to complain. Is your situation really that unbearable? Don't your blessings outweigh your troubles? If you are struggling with contentment, prayer and Bible reading is the best medicine. Pray for His aid in your pursuit of gratitude. Thank Him daily. The Scriptures will teach you to be thankful. As I've already noted, His Word is bursting with verses of thanksgiving. The records of men and women with thankful hearts give us godly examples to imitate.
"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude." (1 Timothy 4:4)
God has blessed us with many wonderful things. We can never repay Him for all His gifts. In light of this, is thankfulness too much to ask? Start at the heart and a thankful attitude will soon be visible outwardly. When you praise the Creator, especially in the midst of trials, it pleases Him and serves as a testimony to the unsaved. They may become curious why we are so happy when we seemingly have nothing to smile about. Our joyful demeanor might influence them to seek the same source of joy. However, if we complain, it automatically leads others to question God's goodness. Gratefulness glorifies God, witnesses to sinners, and produces joy. This Thanksgiving day I encourage you to be thankful—not only today, but as a habit. Let the song of our hearts mimic Paul's words, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Mariposa is a self-taught artist who captures the glories of God's creation on canvas. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a masters degree in imagination.
Aberdeen is a book-eating, ink-drinking dinosaur from the createtus period. When he isn't falling into plot holes or taking cover from the volcano of ideas, he's hanging out with Dee-Dee the doodledactyl. Read full bio