“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
There I was, sitting at the cafeteria table with my kindergartener. When she had seen me in the hallway on the way to lunch, she grinned and waved so hard that her arm propelled her whole body into swaying back and forth. Now, here we were munching away at peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking lemonade together in the middle of her school day.
And I was thankful.
Thankful for a school that allows me to pop in to have lunch with my kids in between their math lessons and their reading time.
Thankful that my daughter grinned when she saw me. Thankful that my first grader introduced me to all her friends. Thankful that I got a hug and a big kiss from each of my older girls. Thankful that, for the moment at least, Mom isn’t too embarrassing and kissing her cheek in public hasn’t become “uncool.”
Thankful that kids all around the cafeteria waved at us. Thankful that my daughters have found and chosen such great friends, knowing that who they play with on the playground and sit with at lunch makes a difference.
So very thankful.
Not that everything in my life is perfect and I live carefree, without worries or problems. But if we are only grateful in the perfect moments, we’ll never give thanks at all.
We train our kids before they can even repeat after us to say “thank you” every time we hand them the graham cracker or the cup of juice. It’s one of those universal mom techniques that somehow we all know how to do even though it isn’t written down in a parenting manual.
Hand child cracker. Tell child, “Say ‘thank you!'”
What cracker has God handed you lately? Have you heard Him prompt your heart for a thankful response?
Sometimes we begrudge the praise He expects. Sometimes we make our worship come with strings attached.
I’ll give thanks—sure, when His gift is sufficient for my need. This cracker isn’t enough to sustain me or satisfy me.
I’ll give thanks—sure, when He cleans up all of the messes and spills around me and I can sit and enjoy this outstretched cracker without distraction, fear, worry or messy troubles on my right or left.
Yet, there is power in gratitude, in contentment, and in trusting the God who always gives good gifts.
Not power in vague thankfulness and the sweeping praise of generalities, though. Not quoting Paul who was ” always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and agreeing to be thankful but never saying why.
Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts said, “I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life” (p. 40).
Yes, and it is the deep thanks, the specific and the named gratitude, that transforms.
It transforms us.
Giving thanks makes Daniels out of us, people of consistent prayer, going before the throne over and over through our every day and thanking Him. Just like Daniel, who “three times a day . . . got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).
Before the issuing of an evil decree written specifically for Daniel’s destruction . . . he prayed and gave thanks. After the decree . . . he prayed and gave thanks.
Giving thanks for him was never circumstantial.
Gratitude transforms something else, too. It turns the insufficient into sufficiency. It alters our circumstances.
When Jesus stood on a hillside surrounded by more than 5000 people, He could have denied God praise. Weren’t these men with their families out in the country for a good reason? Hadn’t they come to hear the teachings of Christ? Hadn’t they patiently listened all day? And now it was late and they had nothing to eat and nowhere to go for food.
Jesus fingered a lunchbox with loaves and fish and eyed the hungry crowd before Him.
Was the gift God had given enough?
Not in the slightest.
And yet Jesus lifted the basket high and “gave thanks” (John 6:11) and suddenly there was a feast that fed the thousands on the hillside and included leftovers.
Ann Voskamp says, “Jesus embraces His not enough . . . He gives thanks . . And there is more than enough. More than enough! Eucharisteo (giving thanks) always, always precedes the miracle” (p. 51).
We don’t give thanks after the miracle. Sometimes our miracle depends on our giving thanks.
So when God hands us a cracker, we don’t remind Him of the three-course meal we asked for; we thank Him for the gift He’s offered. We insist that our heart be content.
We express praise, true and heartfelt, for a God who sees our need and responds with grace and generosity. In so doing, we express to Him that we trust His gift-giving and act on the belief that “your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 6:32).
For what are you thankful today? Don’t just nod and offer the two-second prayer, “Thanks for everything.” Think hard. Dig deep. Be specific.
And give thanks.
Thanking God for shared lunches, for tea parties, for evenings at home, for knitting, for cozy sweaters and cool fall sweater-weather.
If there is one book I could encourage you to read (other than your Bible) this year (and I’ve been busy reading many), it’s Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Please don’t miss out on reading this one.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King