Have you ever considered where gratitude comes from? What produces it? Should I “work at it?” Or is it the overflow of something else? Can I “try” and be more thankful? Or is there a way of thinking that simply grows gratitude?
I believe the latter. Rather than TRYING to be thankful, I believe thankfulness flows from thoughtfulness. By thoughtfulness, I’m talking about thinking differently, thinking deeply, thinking biblically. Right thinking produces more thanking.
So, here are four simple ways to think your way into thankfulness…
1. Lessen your expectations. Hypothetically, if you truly expected “nothing” then every blessing would be an “unexpected surprise.” Every breath! Every heartbeat! Every new day!
In our day of entitlement, we tend to believe we deserve more, better, now. We forget what we really deserve, and hence our expectations grow. Expecting less would instantly result in being delighted by more! It’s a simple formula—expect less, be thankful for more. Surprises are only possible if expectations are exceeded. Grow downward in “deserving,” and your heart will be captivated by the abundance that God has already showered upon you.
2. Deepen your understanding. If you’re pretty good in your own eyes, then God’s grace is pretty small, and you will be less thankful and probably thinking He should be thankful for YOU! We often work to place God in our debt, rather than seeing it the other way around.
Attempting to immerse in and understand the unsearchable depths of the gospel and the inexhaustible wonder of God’s grace reduces you, humbles you, and compels you to fall before Him in worship and gratitude. It’s sad how we tend to reduce the scale, enlarge self, and reduce grace. An inflated self is increasingly thankless.
3. Strengthen your remembrance. What were you worried about last year at this time? How did God come through for you? When is the last time you intentionally took time to be still, to quiet the soul and simply remember?
Remembering requires reflection, which requires retreating from the noise of now. Today’s urgency demands your attention—problems to solve, needs to meet—right now! Sadly, these things devour any hope of stillness. But in stillness you could remember God’s past power and provision. This would reduce today’s problems, putting them into a proper perspective. They aren’t quite the screaming monsters or insurmountable mountains that they appear to be. Pull back a bit, remember, look at the bigger picture. Consider the countless ways God has been faithful to you for SO long! In the shadow of these memories, today’s problems grow smaller, and your heart grows bigger with gratitude.
Choose to be captivated by the memories of WHO God is and WHAT He has done, rather than whatever is overwhelming you right now.
4. Broaden your context. Who did you love today? Who did you help? Who did you call, visit, pray with, serve? We are most thankless when we are most consumed with selves and our small worlds. Every moment I spend thinking of ME or my problems, I’m not thinking of JESUS and OTHERS whom I could love and serve. This makes my world oppressively small and my heart impossible to satisfy!
Discontent will eat me alive. Self is never satisfied when it is ruling it’s own little kingdom. It was created to worship, to serve, to love, to give to a great kingdom. My kingdom blinds me to His! My pettiness places me on a destructive road of emptiness and misery.
When I broaden my narrow context, and consider the world around me, I can consider others, consider their burdens, consider their hardships. I can consider Jesus. I can consider the great Kingdom to which I am called! These considerations will inevitably reduce me, humble me, and engage me in ministry. These things will make me thankful for who Jesus is, where God has placed me, what He has done for me! I will stop thinking about “what is happening to me” and begin experiencing “what God desires to do through me” to magnify Himself and bless others.
When you consider Jesus and consider others, you cannot help but become more grateful.
Here they are again:
Lessen expectations—expect less, be delighted by more.
Deepen understanding—when I’m small, grace is big and gratitude flows.
Strengthen remembrance—God has been and will be exceedingly faithful.
Broaden context—look up and look around—serve Jesus and others.
We deserve much worse and we don’t deserve so much! We have a wonderfully merciful Saviour Who loves us with infinite grace and goodness. We’ve been carried through every day by a faithful Father who has never failed us and never will. And there are a lot of hurting people near me who need me to share Jesus and His love with them.
“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalms 136:1-4