In my reading from Elisabeth Elliot's book Keep a Quiet Heart this morning, she made an interesting comparison between the thankfulness we show when we receive gifts from others, and how we express gratitude to God.
I'll paraphrase: Remember when you received wedding gifts? To whom did you send thank-you notes? Only those who gave you something you liked... or everyone who gave you a gift? Did you send one to the person who gave you the crocheted toilet paper cover as well as the one who gave you a place setting of your china? Of course, if you were raised like I was you wrote thank-you notes to everyone and as soon as possible!
She asks the question, "Wouldn't that be a good thing for us to do with God?"
We are to give thanks in everything, in all circumstances. And we know that. I know that. But do I do that?
She goes on to say, "The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source than his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul. It takes us out of the stuffiness of ourselves into the fresh breeze and sunlight of the will of God. The simple act of thanking Him is for most of us, an abrupt change of activity, a break from work and worry, a move toward re-creation."
But the reality is... that's hard! I know that, but do I know it? I do that, but do I really do it? Do I sow that seed of truth into the daily soil of my reality? When I receive bad news or my circumstances (or those of a loved one) are beyond my comprehension I don't feel thankful. What am I to do? Wouldn't thanking God for those things be lying?
Elliot suggests in those moments thinking on the "givens." What you unshakably believe in. "God the Father Almighty. Jesus Christ His only Son. The Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, life everlasting." Wow, what a list! And those are the "givens!" In true Ephesians 3:20 style, God has given us "immeasurably more that we could ask or imagine" in just that list above. We can be thankful for the "givens."
What do you resolutely believe in? The Apostles Creed is a great place to start. She suggests taking what you're not thankful for and measuring it against the "mighty foundation stones" of your faith. So, it is in this exercise that we can see our disappointments, betrayals, losses and bitterness in their true light. She concludes, "Those disappointments give us a chance to learn to know Him and the meaning of His gifts, and, in the midst of darkness, to receive His light. Doesn't that transform a thankful list into a thankful one?"
Heavenly Father, make it so.