Cause For Gratitude
“Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, scriptures from J.B. Phillips translation unless otherwise noted).
By Ninan Andrews
Worldly people may attribute favorable events to good luck, but a consecrated student of the Bible knows differently (Matthew 5:45). For them, they become a time for gratitude (Acts 14:17, Psalm 116:12-14). Pastor Russell writes, “If the goodness of God could awaken in us no sense of grateful appreciation; if we were wholly dead to such sentiments, there could be no pleasure on God’s part in manifesting his goodness to us, and there would be nothing in us to call out his love; and so also nothing, of all his goodness and grace, would awaken love in us” (R2031).
Jehovah’s Love Draws Us to Him
God gave His son to show His love for His entire creation (John 3:16). The benefits of Jesus’ death are not yet realized by the majority of mankind. “Careful study into the wonderful plan of God reveals both love and wisdom, even in this seeming tardiness; for all this time the drawing power of Christ has been exerted upon a special class — a class in whom the love of God and of Christ, as manifested in this lifting up, wakens such a sense of gratitude as to draw them to follow in his foot-prints at any cost of tribulation, distress or persecution” (Reprint 1055). The love of God and of Christ works as a catalyst in the consecrated to produce in them gratitude for all his goodness! (2 Corinthians 5:14, Psalms 116:12,17 ESV).
God has called us into covenanted sonship with Him (Hebrews 12:5). This relationship becomes the very crux of our choice to thank God for every experience, good or bad.
In 2013, the Brazilian cartoonist Genildo Ronchi published a cartoon on his website titled (translated to English) “Sometimes it just depends on us.” The text read, “Choose the Happy Side of Life!” This cartoon gained life as a meme called “Two Guys on a Bus.” Each looked out a window on opposite sides, one saw a rock wall and the other a beautiful valley. We, too, encounter different experiences on life’s metaphorical bus. We do not always choose the experience, but we do choose our reaction. Our choice can be to grumble about them, or to appreciate them. It is in appreciating them that we gain gratitude.
Cause for Gratitude: Our Trying Experience
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!” (James 1:2). We choose the window through which to view our experiences. As the man on the bus, if we choose to look at the beautiful valley, it will produce the fruit of goodness (Hebrews 12:11, James 1:3-4). Our faith will increase and we will enhance our relationship with the Lord. We will feel more of His presence, love and care (Hebrews 12:7, Proverbs 13:24, Psalm 107:1 ESV). We will find the zeal to show Him gratitude by our actions (Lamentations 3:23-24 NLT). Our confidence will deepen in the hope of final and full acceptance as a son and heir, made worthy through Christ (Colossians 3:16-17).
Consider Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. As his father’s favorite, Joseph was shown an abundance of love and material favor until his brothers turned against him. Betrayal, false witness and imprisonment in Egypt disrupted his shower of blessings. Circumstances changed to make him second in command to Pharaoh. Joseph chose to credit God for the path that enabled him to ultimately save not only himself and his family, but all of Egypt (Genesis 45:5-8 ESV).
At every turn, Joseph demonstrated unwavering faith in God for the experience. He even wept when finally his brothers pleaded for forgiveness (Genesis 50:17 ESV). In his brothers’ betrayal, he chose to see a blessing and direction from God for which he expressed gratitude (Genesis 50:17-20 ESV).
Consider also Hannah, the first of two wives of Elkanah (1 Samuel 1). Peninnah, a second wife, had children while Hannah had none. While enduring ridicule, she cried out to Jehovah for mercy: “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head’” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV).
She sought the blessing of the priest Eli in her request. Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel, one of the greatest prophets of Israel. While some might have reneged on their “bargain” with God, when Hannah birthed a child, she chose to recognize it as God’s answer. She fulfilled her vow, nurturing and preparing Samuel for a life of service and dedication to God.
Contrast these examples with that of captive Israel. God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3:7 ESV). After a miraculous deliverance, at the first sign of difficulty, the Israelites cursed their deliverer for bringing them to apparent death at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-12 ESV). Momentary gratitude followed that incident (Exodus 15:1-21 ESV), but at every difficulty, and even in blessings, the Exodus population reverted to ingratitude and murmuring.
The Danger of Waning Gratitude
Choosing ingratitude during life’s favorable circumstances can lead us away from God. Separation from the fountain of blessings never has good results. During the Exodus, it led to complete failure for Israel save Caleb and Joshua. Pastor Russell expressed the importance of this lesson: “The grateful, thankful heart may go on from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from knowledge to knowledge, from attainment to attainment; but if gratitude begins to wane and our advantages are accepted either as matters of our own attainment or of good luck, in that same proportion we will find ourselves growing cold spiritually, and with unthankfulness will come unholiness, spiritual self-conceit and pride, and all of this will lead to spiritual dearth, and if persisted in to spiritual death” (R3080). What a danger lies in a waning sense of gratitude! We must never discount experiences, whether they appear favorable or unfavorable. With the Lord’s help they always lead to showers of blessings.
“Count your blessings, Name them one by one; Count your blessings, See what God hath done.”
Fostering Daily Gratitude
Our prayers to God are sweet perfume (Revelation 5:8). Let us show our gratitude for His care. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalms 103:1-5 ESV). Here are some ways in which we can choose gratitude to Jehovah in all of our circumstances, good and bad,
(1) Keep a journal of the big and little joys in life. (2) Make a habit of writing thank-you notes to others. (3) Engage in “mental subtraction,” and imagine what your life would be like if some positive or negative event had not occurred. (4) Write down the acts of providence in your life and identify their cause. “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7 NLT).