Why are the simple things in life so difficult for us to do? I mean the small things, like….. being grateful. Is it because it may not be so simple? I'm sure when you were young, you heard your parents say something to you like, "be grateful for what you have. There are those in this world that would do anything for those Brussel Sprouts!" And I'm sure as a kid, if you were like me, your response would have been something like, "You might as well give it to them, cuz I'm not gonna eat them". Being grateful is not so easy. Why? Maybe because it requires us to be happy with what we have been given rather than what we wanted.
I recall, when my wife and I lived in Florida we had some severe hurricanes come through the area. We lived in the northern part of Florida so by the time the storms came they had very much decreased in severity. However this one year we did loose power for several days. As it was in the middle of the summer, as you could imagine, it got very hot with no air conditioning. As we dealt with our loss of power sitting in the heat, I recall getting upset at the fact I couldn't turn on my air conditioning. Then it hit me. We had heard about those who were further south of us where the storms came through as category 3 and 4 strength, and reduced their homes to a pile of rubble. So here I am whining and complaining about not being able to turn on my air conditioner when I just heard of these people that lost their home and some possibly their lives. I said to myself, Be Quiet! Who do you think you are complaining like this?
The lesson of being grateful was a hard one for me to learn that day. Yes, there will always be those that are in worse shape than you. Those that will have greater needs than you so… be grateful.
I am grateful for what someone in my life has done for me. This person is one who I unfortunately did not have the privilege of meeting or even seeing from a distance. When He was here amongst us, I wasn't even born. This person, I'm sure you have figured out by now, is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Being grateful is also knowing how to love. How to be loved. How to show our love for others. I believe when Jesus said 'Love one another', He covered a multitude of things for us to learn. Being grateful also shows a loving, compassionate heart. It shows a loving response to whoever it is that is giving you something, or doing something for you. It was the Lord's teachings in love that also shows us that by being grateful, we can learn to "Love one another" correctly.
Being grateful! It's not easy is it? We can get so caught up in our daily worries that we just loose these simple teachings from God's word. For an example in the book of Philippians, in chapter 4, vs. 6 & 7 it reads:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus".
There's a key phrase in there "by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving" Thanks giving. There's that reference to being grateful again.
There are many references and stories of gratefulness in scripture. One in particular which shows a contrast to our selfishness and God's mercy (which we should always be grateful for) is the story of Jonah. I'm sure your familiar with the story. God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to warn them of their impending destruction because of their sinfulness. Instead he went to another city of Tarshish. Because of his disobedience, God 'awakened' Jonah's gratefulness by causing him to spend three days and three nights in the belly of a fish. After realizing ‘the error of his ways’, Jonah finally prayed to God and in his anguish gave thanks and showed his gratitude to God when he finally went to Nineveh;
But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." Jon. 2:9
Sometimes our gratefulness shows itself only when we are in need or in trouble. As it was for Jonah. During his trip to Nineveh, he was happy when he was able to get out of the sun by means of a plant supplied by God, but when it withered away, He suffered to the point he wished he was dead. God's response was;
"Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?" Jon. 4:9
Jonah's response was; ...... "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!" From being upset that the people of Nineveh were not destroyed and the suffering from the heat he had to endure, Jonah was in despair. He forgot all about any of the good things God had done for him because he concentrated on his immediate situation. However, once again God's patience and gracious response was;
"But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left-and much livestock?" Jon. 4:10
It is especially important that we show our gratification in our prayers to God. There are times when I pray, and I'm sure you do this too, we tend to say things like "Thank you Lord for everything today and … I have this problem, please help with it… or Lord please let me get this thing or that thing. Somehow it always seems to get back to our needs. But I am learning now. So sometimes my prayers go like this;
Father, I ask nothing for myself today. I come to you and just want to thank you for everything you have given me today. Thank you for my continued undeserved blessings. Thank you for providing me what I need to survive. Thank you for my salvation through the efforts of your Son, Jesus Christ. But most of all Lord, thank you.............................. for just being you!
I read a wonderful saying by a German Philosopher and writer by the name of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing which reads;
"A single grateful thought raised to Heaven is the most perfect prayer"
So, the next time you feel a negative response to an issue in your life coming on, stop and think about the 'what ifs', What if this or that happened, would I be worse off? Then….........just be grateful!