“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).
It has been said that, “it’s not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.” Gratitude and bitterness are filters through which all things are interpreted. You can’t be filled with gratitude and bitterness at the same time; one will push out the other. Gratitude is an attitude; it’s a perspective on life.
God made us to be dependent creatures; dependent on Him and dependent on one another. None of us can do it alone, which means we need others to help us. It’s easy to take such help for granted and to sail right past those who sacrifice to enable us to move forward. Families, churches, friends and neighbors: these are less than perfect people but that doesn’t diminish the fact that they do much for us. Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote: “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Tim. 2:1). In addition to the people God has placed in our lives He has also surrounded us with many other good things: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
When Paul wrote to Timothy he described a culture that was crumbling, and in that list of declining attributes he included the term “unthankful” (2 Tim. 3:2). Children (for example), are notoriously unthankful to parents because they assume that parents are supposed to do all those things for them. Forgetting to be thankful is a serious sin (Rom. 1:18-21). Ungrateful people are self-centered people―they’re victims―they have always gotten a raw deal. Mistreated and malcontent, the ungrateful heart is like a fly that finds every sore.
Every year is full of joys and sorrows. In this fallen world everything is bitter-sweet. But even the sorrows can surprise us with new joys when we recognize the hand of God in them. Gratitude is an attitude. He calls us to give thanks in and for all things; to find the sweet in the bitter. Every sweet thing has some taint of a fallen world, yet in every bitter thing there are remnants of the sweet, unfallen world as well. Even in the greatest of what we call “tragedies,” even in the darkness, the power and goodness of God shines forth and hope moves us forward. God mends, saves, and resurrects. He brings good out of evil. Even in the storm, He comes to us. In our weakness He is made strong; and He makes us strong. While we can’t usually see very far ahead, nevertheless, if we can see Him in the storm, if we can hear His still small voice, then we have a Lighthouse that will bring us to safety. By this, we’re able to give thanks for all things.
Our Thanksgiving Day Feasts, with the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pies―with the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures―with the friends and family―these are but tokens and reminders of a million other gifts for which we should be thankful every day. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).