I once wrote a blog post titled "Choosing Thankfulness." As I got to thinking, I realized that simply choosing thankfulness isn’t enough. As is the case with any major decision in life, there is usually some maintenance required in order to reap the full benefits of the decision. Thankfulness is a discipline to be cultivated.
It’s hard to know how you will react when hard times hit; but we can make preparations to make sure our hearts and minds are guarded by the peace of Christ when they do. Like a farmer covering his crops in anticipations of an early frost, or an MMA fighter training in low-oxygen conditions, setting certain habits in place can prepare us for the trials ahead. Thankfully, these habits and principles are laid out for us in scripture.
- Give thanks when you pray (Phil 4:6, Col 4:2). Before we even ask for things in prayer, we should be thanking God for his goodness and what He has already done in our lives.
- Thank God whenever you enter his presence (Psalm 95:2, 100:4). Whenever we go to spend time with God, whether in personal devotional time or in corporate worship, it should be with an attitude of thankfulness.
- Thanksgiving is an act of sacrifice (Leviticus 7:12, Psalm 107:22, 116:17). The Levitical sacrifice of thanksgiving teaches us that we are to give thanks for the good and the bad, and that we are able to do this because of Jesus’s sacrifice.
I recall from my sales internship with the Southwestern Company that we were challenged to avoid pity parties even at our lowest emotional state (usually following a zero sales day or getting chewed out by a prospect). I remember mentally working hard to replace the thought of “this sucks” with “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” When we get in this habit of allowing God to shift our perspective heavenward and off of our situation, we are cultivating an inward discipline of thankfulness.
Not only should we be cultivating thankfulness as an inward discipline, but as a cultural standard. In addition to thanking God, we ought to be thanking people. My wife does this better than anyone I know – she will go out of her way to make sure that a person knows that we appreciate him/her for what they have done for us. Never take things for granted; recognize that our well-being is often the product of someone else’s sacrifice. Joyfully receive the duty of spreading a culture of thankfulness in your home, workplace, and church.
Never take things for granted; recognize that our well-being is often the product of someone else’s sacrifice.
I was reminded today that the word I chose to focus on this year was “joy.” I must say, I am learning that this word is deeply connected to the discipline of thankfulness. People sometimes ask me how I seem so happy all the time, even when circumstances are rough. I know that “Jesus” sounds like a clichéd answer, but it’s the most honest one I have. Things are never as bad as I initially perceive, so I try to present things to God and ask Him for His perspective. It’s then that I realize that I am SO blessed, too blessed to be stressed, and that the broken parts of my life and the world in which I live only reveal more of God’s goodness and blessings.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18