Although parents work hard to teach children to say thank you, such a mannerism does not become ingrained unless one chooses to be intentional about it. A cross-cultural survey by the John Templeton Foundation revealed that only 48 percent of American adults express gratitude on a regular basis. One would hope this trend would not be the same for the church as the Bible has much to say about the need to be thankful. Having a thankful heart ensures we will not become bitter about life’s unwanted experiences.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). I’m thankful this verse does not command us to be thankful for everything. It would be extremely difficult to be thankful for sickness, the death of loves ones, 401(k) losses, and mosquitoes. But if we can learn how to be thankful in everything, we will discover more peace and contentment through everything.
We often view the will of God in terms of locations and events. Yet the will of God is actually about who we are and what we do. Choosing to be thankful in everything is the way to remain in the will of God regardless of the situation. The will of God is not supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to be right. Maintaining a thankful heart is always the right thing to do, especially in the midst of difficult situations. The circumstance may just be the tool God uses to develop our character.
The psalmist boldly declared in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” While it would be difficult to be thankful for the valley, it is easy to be thankful for the fact He is with us and that His rod and staff comfort us!Having a thankful heart ensures we will not become bitter about life’s unwanted experiences. Click To Tweet
The apostle Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31–32).”
Being Thankful Is Key to Being Kind, Gracious, and Forgiving
A deep-dive study of the word thankful in the New Testament shows us that it is closely related to the word grace. It can be said that being thankful is key to being kind, gracious, and forgiving. It is impossible to be kind and bitter or tenderhearted and angry at the same time, or to forgive someone while speaking evil of them. James said that bitter and sweet water cannot pour out of the same spring (James 3:11). We get to decide which pours out: kindness or bitterness, grace or anger. Learning to be thankful is vital to making sure we do not live in our negative emotions.
The August 2022 edition of the Harvard Business Review contains the article “How to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown,” in which the author describes the four lenses of resiliency as being the lenses of learning, challenge, timing, and gratitude. Each lens represents a choice of perspective. How we view failures, setbacks, let-downs, and all other unwanted circumstances is determined by how we choose to see them.
- The Learning Lens: One can choose whether or not to learn from a situation. Wisdom is built when obstacles are viewed as learning opportunities.
- The Challenge Lens: Having the mindset of “this challenge is an opportunity for me to grow” will put you in the proper frame of mind to deal with the issue. Choose to be thankful for God’s ever-abiding presence during a challenge. What would happen if we would ask God to help us learn from every challenge instead of asking Him to remove all of them?
- The Timing Lens: Many people become bitter and frustrated when something doesn’t happen within a desired time frame. Develop the perspective that says, “Just because it didn’t happen this time doesn’t mean it will never happen.” Sometimes God will not move you to a new season until you become well seasoned in the one you are in.
- The Gratitude Lens: Choosing to be thankful in everything will help you deal with the challenges of everything. Look for things to thank God for instead of focusing on the unwanted aspects of life. Opportunities abound to thank God for something in everything. Doing so will require you to be intentional and open-minded about what is happening around you. Look for how God is guiding, developing, and molding you to be more like Him. And when you see it, take time to simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”
(A version of this article was printed in Pentecostal Life.)