By Sam Olson
I don’t think it’s simple to feel thankful for things that come easy to us. I find when things come into my life in an easy way, I’m all too quick to take them for granted. I find my prayers become more shallow. I find my thanksgiving to God becoming an afterthought instead of an intentional bowing of my heart to His grace. Yet when life becomes overwhelmingly difficult, I find myself struggling with the thought, “What is there to be grateful for?”. I think the truth of the matter is that real thanksgiving is hard and it changes you.
GRATITUDE DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE SENSE
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:3-4
What does it mean to us and to God when we break bread and give thanks? What does it mean when we speak to God with humbled and grateful hearts in response to His unending love and provision for us? Perhaps, it means that we have been changed. In this Ephesians passage, the word “thanksgiving” feels out of place beside the broken words of “impurity”, “sexual immorality”, “greed”, and “obscenity”. Then again, doesn’t the word “thanksgiving” appear out of place when I look at the brokenness in my own life? I’ve battled broken relationships, loss, infertility, and hurt for most of my life. Yet when I look back at the hard and broken things which have taken place for me personally, it doesn’t make sense that I would still kneel and offer thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father.
Does it make sense that I would be thankful for the loss of my baby brother when I was 10 years old? Does it make sense that I would be thankful for going on four years of heartbreaking infertility? Does it make sense that I would be thankful for the loss of friendships and close relationships as my husband and I navigated switching churches? No, it doesn’t make sense at all.
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:25-31G
GRATITUDE PRODUCES A LIFE CHANGE
Without being changed by Christ, I would never be able to recognize God’s grace which has held me in my most broken and ugly moments. And now I find that it is for those exact moments of grace which took place in those exact moments of hurt and sin that I am most thankful to God for. Because Christ has changed my heart, infertility, loss, and things of brokenness are no longer defeating. Instead, those things are my testimony and my victory. None of that is possible without Jesus. And none of that is able to be my story without a completely life altering change in my point of view: from being in despair to living in humble and real thanksgiving to God.
Thanksgiving is the result of a life changed by Him. It doesn’t mean an absence of sin, or of hurt, or of mistakes. Thanksgiving is not the result of a life perfectly lived by us. Thanksgiving is the result of a life imperfectly lived by us, which can be changed by the saving grace of Jesus.
When we are truly changed by the blood and love of Christ, thanksgiving begins to pour from our beings and sets us apart from what we were. It comes off our lips as we break bread around the table. It pours out of our hearts as we live a life that has been redeemed. It spills out from our hands as we live new lives in response to what Jesus has done for us and in response to the love God has for us.
GRATITUDE REVEALS WHO HE IS TO US
Thanksgiving, when we really get down to the root of it, has nothing to do with what we have or have not done. It has everything to do with what we have received in Him: salvation, redemption, restoration, provision, hope, and grace: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
Whatever battles we face, we can know that God has the power to change them. He can crumble our mountains before our very eyes, but He can also shift our gaze to the things worth seeing. Thanksgiving with our Father becomes our life song when we are aware of His presence and love amidst our brokenness. May we see His moments of Grace towards us. May we lift our eyes towards the things worth seeing and above the things which can no longer hurt us. May we open our hearts and extend our hands in this life as a response to the beautiful change God has created in us. And may we always carry thanksgiving around as the symbol of the changing of our souls and as a sign of the confidence we have in Christ and our King.