We live in an affluent time, far different than what our grandparents experienced when they were our age. I remember often hearing stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents about the trials and hardships they went through. They would share stories of fleeing war-torn countries with nothing but a small bag and their wedding ring; or how they moved their whole family across the ocean to a new land in search of a better future.
As a child, these stories were fascinating. They were so far removed from my reality it was hard to imagine what that would have felt like. In my early twenties I read my grandma’s life story and I marveled at her strength as I read what she went through at my age.
Many of us today have it so good. Our basic needs are always met; we have shelter, food, water, clothing and are blessed with loving families, who provide for our emotional needs. As children of God, we can daily access Him through His Word and in prayer. We also have the opportunity to receive spiritual blessings as we gather in church. In all this abundance, it is easy to forget where our blessings come from. It is possible that we forget to thank the One who provides for us so well.
Gratitude, or thankfulness, is a beautiful virtue. We all like to be around people who are thankful. People who show their appreciation for others, and people who are content with their life and the things they have. On the other hand, we do not enjoy being with people who are ungrateful. The people of Israel wearied Moses with their constant murmurings, grumblings and complaints, instead of praising God for His faithfulness and goodness to them. My young children need to be reminded daily to be thankful. It warms my heart when they remember to say thank you, or when they unexpectedly express their gratitude for something I have done for them. It is upsetting to hear them complain and grumble, especially when I know how well they are cared for. How much more does it hurt our heavenly Father when we are ungrateful?
It can be tempting to become discontented with our life and circumstances. We are surrounded by media that remind us of all the things we do not have. It’s tempting to focus on the daily trials and challenges that we go through, instead of focusing on God and how He can bring us through these trials. Our emotions, and the way we feel about life, have so much to do with how we think. If we think positive and thankful thoughts, we will feel more positive and thankful too. This is sometimes easier said than done.
I recall one valley in particular, where it felt very difficult to thank God. Every small thing that went wrong in a typical day felt bigger than it was. But when I consciously stopped my spiraling thoughts and started counting up the blessings I could be thankful for, it made an enormous difference. I encourage you to make it a habit to count up your blessings daily and thank God for them. You will be amazed at the goodness of God.
We know the story of the ten lepers who Jesus cleansed. All of them went their way rejoicing, yet only one returned to thank God. Jesus was not pleased by their lack of gratitude. He said, “‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:17-19).
Let us not forget to thank our Lord for His blessings. Let us make it a habit to count up these blessings, not just on the good days when life is going well, but especially on the challenging days, when we need to be reminded that there is always something to be thankful for. Remembering to give thanks will enrich our own life, the lives of those around us and give God the glory.