As children grow we try to teach them to use what I’ve dubbed their “polite words.” “Please” and “thank you” are necessary for social interactions and part of a child’s training is to learn when and how to use them. The challenge is that children are often only given these instructions when they want something, and then when they get something they want. We rarely teach children that when their desires aren’t fulfilled, they still need to give thanks.
This same habit we take into adulthood. We say “please” when we are making a request, and only say “thank you” when the request is fulfilled. Our gratitude is reactionary. It comes after we get what we want, and is presumably unnecessary if we don’t.
Yet God has already given us so much that even when He doesn’t grant our particular request, we have reason to give thanks. Like our worship of Him, our gratitude isn’t contingent on our circumstances, but on Who He is and He is always good, always loving, and always working things out according to His purposes. Even when we don’t get our heart’s desire, we have reason to thank Him – for the gifts and the grace He has already bestowed.
It was a lesson I saw in action very recently. As I previously mentioned, a dear friend was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. The night of her diagnosis, as we waited in the hospital room, she suggested we pray. As she prayed, the first thing that she did was give thanks. Not merely a “thank you God for being God” but listing specific and particular things for which she was grateful. Her first response to God wasn’t one of anger or confusion, but of thanks. Her gratitude wasn’t based on the fact that she was laying in a hospital bed with an unknown future, but based on the fact that regardless of where she was, God was still on His throne. He was still faithful and still true, and she had much for which she could thank Him.
And so do we.
What are you thankful to God for?