Radical Gratitude

Thanksgiving is coming. This Thursday most of us will hit pause from work, gather with family, eat too much and express gratitude to God for the many blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It is a great annual attitude adjustment. It seems for many, complaint is their native tongue. I know I can slip into it easily. But instead, I want to look at life through a lens of gratitude, even radical gratitude. We find this revolutionary lens of gratitude expressed by the Apostle Paul when he says, “give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Easy to say, hard to do. How can we see all of life with gratitude?
First, focus on God, not circumstances. We tend to fixate on our circumstances. Paul is calling us to lift our vision to God Himself. We must fix our eyes on Him. He is all powerful, all knowing, sovereign, compassionate, merciful and faithful to name just a few of His characteristics. When our lives seem chaotic, our finances collapsing, or relationships imploding there is another place to look: God Himself. This is the example of Daniel, dragged from his family and national home to a foreign land, finding out that the king had said no one could pray to anyone but him or they face death in a lion’s den. Still Daniel kneels and “gives thanks to his God.” (Daniel 6:10). Singer Laura Story asks, “Am I going to let my circumstances determine my view of God, or am I going to let God determine how I view my circumstances?” (When God Doesn’t Fix It, 13).
Second, focus on what God is accomplishing. Paul was drowning in circumstances that would rob most of gratitude—persecution, beatings and jail—yet he oozes gratitude to God for the privilege of being called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. I see this same attitude in Joni Eareckson Tada who has spent over 50 years in a wheelchair after being paralyzed during a diving accident, and yet she thanks God for her wheelchair and the opportunity to encourage those with disabilities around the world. Or Nick Vujicic, who was born with no arms or legs, yet is grateful for his ministry, wife and four children. Both Joni and Nick have been used by God powerfully to spread the gospel, joy and encouragement to thousands. They see purpose in their pain and impact, not despite their disabilities, but in part because of their disabilities.
Third, focus on God’s love for us. The Old Testament has a recurring theme of thankfulness to God tied to His love. This one sentence, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” occurs several times in the Bible. Just as a child who knows she is loved by her parents can overcome many problems, if one of our bedrock beliefs is that we are loved by God, we can face the traumatic wrapped in gratitude for God’s shocking love for us. As we move forward in life, let us take out the contact lenses of complaint and put on the glasses of gratitude. There is much to be grateful for in life if we choose to see it.

Pastor Derek Dickinson