What are you really thankful for?
When Ryan came home from school last week, he told me his assignment was to look me in the eye and tell me why he was thankful for me. He said he was thankful for all the hugs and kisses I give him. I asked him if he had forgotten about the time I took him to the doctor when he was sick, or when I took him to the zoo, or when I cooked his favorite meal – green mac n’ cheese. “Of course, Mom,” Ryan said, “I’m thankful for all that. I’m thankful for you.”
We take time to count our blessings during Thanksgiving. As Christians, we direct our gratitude to God, the source of all kindness and grace. This year, as I was giving thanks for all the good things God had given me, I wondered if I was more thankful for the gifts than the Giver of gifts.
God has supplied all my basic needs—food, clothes, and shelter. Beyond that, He has blessed me with good health and given me a loving family. I have everything I need. And I recognize that God’s responsible for all of it. What’s more, all I have belongs to God. Nothing I have is mine. I’m only a steward of the gifts He has given me.
I tried to imagine how I would react if I lost something or someone that was my prized possession. Will there be any difference in the way I show gratitude to God?
I must admit that some of the things that God has given me have become so important to me and my well-being that the thought of losing them gives me a mild panic attack. I’m not talking just about material possessions. Our roles as parents, Bible study leaders, or Sunday school volunteers make us feel important and valued. We pride ourselves on our education or the fancy title and office we have at our workplace. Some of us also give a lot of weight to our cultural and family heritage. We also value our standing in society.
When Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God,” in his letter to the Thessalonians ( 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV), he urged them to cultivate a heart of gratitude that transcended circumstances and emotions. We thank God in seasons of plenty as well as poverty simply because we trust in His goodness and acknowledge His sovereignty. We are alive, saved, and eternally secure because of Jesus’ work on the Cross and God’s love for us.
Nothing can take that away from us.
God’s power and strength are available to us, at all times, whether we are healthy or sick. God’s grace and peace are accessible to us even when we find ourselves at the bottom of a sinful pit. God’s friendship is within reach, when we are surrounded by a loving family, or when we find ourselves alone and friendless. Even after death, His love continues. What more could we ask for?
As I pondered on my blessings last week, I was compelled to look within and see if God really had my whole heart. Just like my son who was thankful for me, his mom, I want to look God in the eye and tell Him I’m thankful that He’s in my heart and in my life, not just on Thanksgiving but every day. I want to be able to love God for who He is and not for what He gives me.
Certainly, I’m grateful for His generosity. But I hope that if for some reason I find myself in a dry or difficult season, I can still echo the Psalmist’s words (Psalm 100 NIV):
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
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