Looking back on the past year may be a challenging prospect for many. Apart from reports in the media of murder, crime, violence, corruption and drought, there are personal losses that we have faced as well: perhaps the death of a loved one, an unexpected divorce, a persevering sickness, the sudden loss of a job, or another year having passed without finding employment. How do we manage to give thanks to God after a year filled with such seemingly unending challenges?
A while ago, I had such a year, and a friend came to visit and encourage me. At the end of two days of listening to my stories, she said lovingly, ‘What you need to do is to start saying, “Thank You” to God for who He is. That will change the way you feel, and it will address a lot of your pain and hurt!’
Initially, I was taken aback by her answer! She did not sympathise with my situation at all, as one would expect from a friend! However, she was no ordinary friend. She was a real friend. Her comment on all my whining guided me gently to take up an ancient key found in Scripture to enable me to step out of my mindset and current situation. I cannot say that my situation really changed much afterwards, but the way I viewed life certainly did! All it took was for me to swallow my pride and admit the evident lack of gratitude in my heart.
“Granted” or “gratitude”
Preaching about cultivating a lifestyle of thanksgiving, my pastor quoted G.K. Chesterton: When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or you take them with gratitude.
This does not mean that we should praise God for sickness, calamity or misfortune, rather, give Him thanks for who He is, despite the situations we encounter daily. To cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude is to stand contrary to the spirit of this world, which encourages us to want everything now – as I want it, when I want it, as much as I want it, for as long as I want it. In summary, to have MY WAY!
Living a life of gratitude
- Living a life of gratitude is to take nothing you have for granted, especially the ‘small’ things, such as the sun shining; your ability to see, to breathe, to walk; the rain falling etc.
- Living a life of gratitude is to take a fresh look at your parents, children, spouse and difficult family members, and to encourage them regarding their good points, regardless of their response!
- Living a life of gratitude is to seek out the good in those you encounter daily –those you know and those you may never see again.
- Living a life of gratitude is to live more for others and less for yourself.
- Living a life of gratitude is to help those in need more than meeting your own needs.
- Living a life of gratitude is to avail your gifts and talents (however small they may seem to you) to serve others.
- Living a life of gratitude is to see how and when you can give of your time, effort, love, smiles, money, possessions, etc.
- Living a life of gratitude is to be content; turning away from always striving to have one more thing, buy one more item, reach one more goal.
- Living a life of gratitude signifies a humble heart. Psalm131:1-2: LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. 2 Surely, I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Cultivate a closer walk with God
Many Christian books have been written on how to walk with God, which methods or practices to follow to cultivate a lifestyle of intimacy with the Lord. All of these are valid, but there is one very simple key that unlocks the beginning of such a journey, and it is found in the well-known Psalm, Psalm 100:
The MESSAGE Translation states it like this: Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank Him. Worship Him.
The Amplified Bible (AMPC) elaborates further: Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! (Psalm 100:4).
Living closer to God is to embark on the journey of gratitude intentionally.
Cultivate some gratitude
A few years ago, our ministry went through a very tough time financially. Our leader gave each member of the Personnel a small blank notebook. We had to sit down and write at least 100 things we could think of to thank God for. We had been so focused on the challenges we were facing that without realising it, we were focused mainly on praying for the needs of the ministry and were giving little attention to thanking God for the many things we did have!
This is my invitation to you: Take a fresh sheet of paper and start writing 100 things you can thank God for. It will set you thinking, and it will make you focus on life in a different way.
Gratitude honours God
If you are still looking for a reason to live a life of gratitude, I would suggest that God is honoured by our giving Him thanks. This, in itself, should be enough for us to love Him with praise and thanksgiving, just because He is worthy!
The Contemporary English Bible (CEV) says in Psalm 50:23: The sacrifice that honours Me is a thankful heart. The MESSAGE Translation says, “It’s the praising life that honours Me.”
You can give Him thanks because it honours Him, and we do want to live lives that glorify Him. Therefore, let us start by giving Him thanks!
God is always good
Whatever misfortunes you face, God is in the midst of them. He is inherently good; He cannot be anything but kind to His children. The reality is that we live in a broken world, and our own lives are filled with our shortcomings too! Therefore, remind yourself often that God is good, always!
Tell the Lord how thankful you are, because He is kind and always merciful. (Psalm 118:1; CEV).
Doing His will
Everyone desires ‘only to do God’s will’ for their lives. Here is one thing you and I can do that is most certainly the will of God: Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. (1 Thessalonians 5:18; AMPC).
Psalm 116: 12 from The Passion Translation (TPT) says: So now, what can I ever give back to God to repay him for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
Will you consider giving thanks to God, despite your circumstances, problems and challenges; and especially when it is going well?