Writing can be an “omer of manna” — a reminder of who we were, where we’ve been and how God is working all things for our good. In that spirit, I share this piece that appeared on my blog last Thanksgiving
2013 has been a year of exploring thankfulness. If you outlined my life on paper, you would have wondered why being thankful was a struggle.
But my desire for thankfulness this year led to learning about three key lessons that will endure with me for the rest of life.
Thankfulness is an attitude not dependent on circumstances, good or bad.
My life was great in May 2013. College graduation? Check. Happy prospects with Mr. M? Check. Job plans after graduation? Check. Place to live? Check. Yet, I was frustrated and discontent by life not going exactly the way I wanted.
I had grown-up hearing that thankfulness isn’t about life situation, but in knowing God and understanding his character and his work. That little nugget of truth had always been shared in the context of tragedy and hardship. Shouldn’t it be true in the context of blessing? When my life has challenges, it’s easy for me to rest in the knowledge that that I know the Lord. But, when life is going well, I too often ground my thankfulness in the blessings of this earth and think of Christ as the icing on the cake.
“He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only,” writes C.S. Lewis.
Regardless of our situation (joy or sorrow, blessing or tragedy), we are faced with a choice: Will our happiness be grounded in our life, or in the Giver of Life?
Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Thankfulness must be cultivated.
I remember reading the story of Joni Eareckson Tada in high school. Following her diving accident which resulted in quadriplegia, Tada struggled with depression. A mentor encouraged her to begin keeping a gratitude journal, daily listing the things she was thankful for. Although she didn’t begin with project with a heart of gratitude, Tada found herself becoming thankful through the practice.
In May, I started keeping a “1000 Gifts” journal using the “Joy Dare” prompts from Ann Voskamp. I’ve not been as faithful with my journal as I would have liked, but it’s accomplished its purpose — cultivating a habit of thankfulness in my life.
Thankfulness is followed by joy.
I think Ann Voskamp puts it best: “Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”
As we give thanks for everything (even what we don’t understand), we learn to look to the One who gives us life and see his sovereign hand in all. And fixing our eyes on Jesus well surely produce the deepest and sweetest joy.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)