Every day we have choices. Grumble and complain about life's spanks or give thanks.
Trust me when I say I can grumble with the best of them when things just aren't going my way.
I was doing a lot of grumbling over life's spanks upon me back in 2007. I had finished seminary, moved back home with mom and dad, struggled to find a "real" job and ended up cleaning toilets at Disneyland. One stereotypically beautiful Southern Californian day, I met up with a friend who had attended seminary with me. My sweet friend listened as I went on and on complaining about my life during that season of toilets, plungers, and a whole lot of blah, blah, blah. When I had finished spewing out complaints about life's spanks, my friend graced me with her wisdom and love and asked me one simple question that caused a radical shift to take place in my life.
She asked, "Carrie have you ever wrote down a list of the things you are grateful for?"
Sadly, I had to think about it. I hadn't.
"For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength."
For the longest time I struggled with these words from Paul to the church in Philipi. During this season of life's spanks; not thanks, I remember thinking 'Victoria's got secrets and so does Paul. So how did they learn these secrets of their's?'
I did eventually write my list of things I was grateful for and it was a game changer for me. A life that offers thanks and doesn't get caught up in the spanks, is a life that truly understands where and how all things are made and who holds them together daily.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17
By identifying what I was thankful for, I recognized that I had been given so much and I had no room to be ungrateful for anything in my life. I finally recognized that I was so unhappy about my life during that season because I was looking to myself to make myself happy. I probably don't need to even mention this, but I was a far cry from making myself happy!
I've come a long way from that stinky, ungrateful attitude I had during that season and have since learned a lot about what it means to give thanks.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
Giving thanks helps identify the blessings God has given us. When that happens, we are compelled to bless others. "You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your coffession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else." 2 Corinthians 9:11-13
Giving Thanks is Worship
Giving thanks takes the focus off of me and rightly places it upon God. 'You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, whoch he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 8:17-20
Giving Thanks Keeps us from Idols (The idol of me and how great I am included)
"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. Psalm 24:1-6
Giving Thanks is Contageous
What do the yawns, giggles and thanksgiving all have in common? They are contageous. Giving thanks and living a life of gratitude to God is so radically different than how the world of self-gratitude operates, it's bound to turn heads and catch on like the plague. For the past 3 years I have used my Facebook status update during the month of November to say what I am grateful for daily. Many others have begun to do the same and I really look forward each day to seeing what my friends are thankful for. It grows my heart of thanksgiving in the process.
Giving Thanks is Freeing
When we recognize all good things come from the Lord and we experience his love and closeness to us in all things, we can't help but filled with such joy we end up dancing like David in 2 Samuel 6. When I first recognized the many blessings in my life, I wanted to thank God by giving to others. When we know where all things come from, we are then able to offer all things freely to others.
I'm thankful this season that I, like Paul, have learned the secret of being content and thankful when I have little and when I plenty, when things are not going as I had hoped (for example, cleaning toilets at the tragic kingdom with a graduate degree) and when I am overwhelmed with abundant goodness.
This thanksgiving season I am choosing thanks over spanks.
What else does giving thanks do in our lives?
What are you thankful for today?