I’ve decided to stop loving people. I’m just not feeling it these days. Love is hard and I’m going to wait until it comes naturally before I act upon it.
But wait! You say, the Bible says we’re supposed to love. Sure love is hard, but Jesus said it’s central to the two greatest commandments. You have to work at loving. What are you, a horrible person?
Well, I agree with you. I’m not giving up on love. Stop worrying and don’t call me a horrible person!
Here’s what’s interesting: I can safely assume you read that and were horrified by my lack of love. But what if I’d written the same paragraph about thankfulness? If I’d have said, “Being thankful is hard and I’m just not feeling it these days. The Psalms of lament are more my style.” You might have read and yawned… or agreed.
I’ve never discounted thanksgiving aloud, but my actions have ignored it. Faith, love and doctrinal correctness get a lot of attention as core virtues, while gratitude… As Nancy Leigh DeMoss says in her book Choosing Gratitude, we’ve relegated gratitude to the second or even third tier of Christian character traits. “Gratitude may appear on the deluxe models, but it’s definitely not in the basic package…” she writes.
But how can that be right? The Psalms are bursting with songs of thanksgiving; gratitude shows up even in the lament Psalms. Sure we give thanksgiving its own day in November – but how can one day capture the spirit of Ephesians 5:20 which says to “give thanks always”? What about Colossians 3:17 which says to do everything while “giving thanks to God the Father through [Jesus]”?
The first objection that came to mind as I read about gratitude was, “Life is HARD. You mean I’m supposed to be thankful even in the middle of that?” But then again, Ephesians 5:20 says to give thanks “for everything”. If I believe every word of the Bible was inspired, then “for everything” means… well… everything.
But how? How am I supposed to give thanks for this painful conflict? For my horrible boss at work? While changing diapers?
Yet if God works everything together for our good, then there is something to thank Him for in the midst of trials. If His mercies are new every morning then every morning there’s something new to give Him thanks for.
I think it’s interesting that in Hebrews 13:14-15, praise is tied to Heaven. Those verses say:
…we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Those who are seeking the coming city are people of praise – people of thanksgiving. In her book DeMoss relates the story of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who spent a total of fourteen years in prison for the Gospel. While being tortured, four vertebrae were smashed and eighteen holes were cut or burned into his body. Yet Wurmbrand is quoted as saying, “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.
That is the testimony of someone focused not on the problems of this city, but on the promise of the city to come. Someone who offered a sacrifice of praise in the most unlikely of circumstances. One who believed that we can give thanks in everything.
I’m horrible at giving thanks. I promise you that five minutes after I finish writing this blog, I will be complaining about something (probably something minor). I need your help to remind me to live a life of gratitude. Will you dance for joy in this prison cell with me? Will you offer a sacrifice of praise alongside me in everything?
How do you remind yourself to give thanks in your circumstances? Do you find gratitude easy or difficult?