As I was looking ahead to Thanksgiving and thinking about writing this post I decided I wanted to try to be more thankful throughout the day. I would start listing things throughout the day that I was thankful for, a beautiful sunrise, a comfortable bed etc. I found that after listing off a few things it never felt quite right, it felt like I was missing something.
I eventually realized that while I was trying to be thankful for the good things in my life, I was forgetting to be thankful for the Source of all good things. I was being thankful for the beautiful sunrise, but not the Creator and Designer of beauty itself. I was being thankful for my comfortable bed, but not for God who is the Source of peace and rest. While it’s good to be thankful for good things, something is missing when we don’t keep God in focus with our thankfulness.
How To Be Thankful
Living a life of genuine thankfulness requires us to realize how undeserving we are. If someone gives us a gift that we feel entitled to we won’t be very thankful for that gift, but if someone gives us a gift that we feel completely undeserving of, gratitude will come naturally. Thankfulness flows when we see how much more we’ve been given than what we know we deserve.
But that’s not an easy thing to do. We all have those things that we cling to that we use to define ourselves. Whether it’s our possessions, how healthy we are, how great people think we are, or the friendships we have, we all have things we use to define ourselves. To live a life of thankfulness we can no longer cling to those defining things in our lives. But letting go can be scary. Being thankful and releasing our grip on things that are important to us means realizing that God could take those things away from us and still be completely just.
If you have ever been in a classroom with young kids you have likely experienced the scenario where one kid is playing with a toy, but as soon as another kid wants to play with that toy the first kid grips it more tightly and yells “mine!” The toy never belonged to that kid, but they want to assume possession and control of it, and the thought of losing it brings fear.
While clinging to things looks different as we get older, it can still bring fear at the thought of giving up control to God. But even if God takes away a good thing in our lives, he will use it to draw us to himself, the Source of all good. While he may take away something that feels like a central part of who we are, he will show us that our real value and worth is found in him, who will never leave us or be taken away from us.
Thankfulness is Freedom
There’s a story I heard from my dad when I was growing up about how these people caught monkeys. They would put something shiny at the bottom of these jars and stick them in the ground. The jars were designed so that the mouth was open enough for the monkey to stick its hands in, but small enough that if the monkey grabbed onto the shiny piece they couldn’t get their fists out. As soon as the monkey came and grabbed on to the piece these people would come out to catch the monkey. All the monkey had to do was let go of that piece so as to get their hands out of the jar and run away to freedom, but its desire to cling on is what caught them.
Thankfulness allows us to let go. Not that we can’t still love and enjoy the people and things in our lives, but thankfulness allows us to enjoy them without clinging to them so hard that we become enslaved by them. A life of thankfulness gives us freedom to enjoy whatever we have rather than fearing what we might loose in the future. Thankfulness shows our trust in our God who will provide. It reveals to the world that as Christ followers we don’t have to rely on the good things we have, but rely on the One from whom all good things come.
About the author
I am a natural deep thinker, which means I love reading books, getting away from things to process the week, and when all the little details line up. I also love, running, volleyball, and almost any form of competition, especially if I have a good shot at winning.