by Jesse Jost
“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20 NKJV)
What do you need to be happy? Two ladies were discussing this subject, and one lady said, “If I had fifty dollars, I know I would be happy.” A wealthy man overheard their conversation and thought to himself, “If that lady only needs fifty dollars to be happy, I can help her.” The man walked up to her and gave her a $ 50 bill. The lady was overt in her show of gratitude, but as the man walked away he heard her grumble, “Man, why didn’t I say a hundred dollars!”
I think most of us have our own list of things we “need” to be happy, but will getting those things really make us happy? George Bernard Shaw quipped, “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your hearts’ desire; the other is to gain it.” Chuck Swindoll likewise observed that “often one seeks greener grass on the other side only to find when he get there that it’s not edible. Sometimes, however, it is, but if the grass is greener on the other side, you can bet their water bill is higher!”
What is the secret to happiness? No, it’s not an Oh Henry bar, Hamburger Helper, or even Speed Stick deodorant (although that last one at least helps others find happiness). I believe there’s a very simple key to finding real joy no matter what the circumstance. It’s so simple it’s often missed. The key is….gratitude!
God commands us to “give thanks always for all things.” (Eph.5:20) In Col.3:17, we are told that in whatever we do, we are to give thanks. Genuine gratitude (i.e. choosing to be aware of and grateful for all the things God has done for us) is a goldmine of spiritual treasures. It is an effective antidote to many of our spiritual ills.
We are instructed to rejoice in the Lord always. However, the enemy prevents this by dragging us down with guilt, fear, apathy, pride and self-centeredness. These are terrible burdens that rob us of the telltale joy that should be the mark of every true believer. Thanksgiving breaks the spell of Satan’s deception, clears our minds, and frees us from these entanglements, enabling our spirits to soar.
Choosing to have an attitude of gratitude does real damage to the deadly viruses of pride and a self-centered attitude. It takes our eyes off ourselves and focuses our attention on God and others. It also puts the Creator/creature relationship into proper perspective by reminding us how frail and dependent upon God we really are. We are so easily duped into believing we can take the credit for who we are, that we often turn a blind eye to all that God and others have done for us. Thanksgiving reminds us who truly deserves the credit for anything good in us.
Fear and anxiety also find it difficult to coexist with a grateful spirit. Giving thanks is a declaration of faith, an acknowledgment of God’s sovereign hand. Thanksgiving comforts our souls by reminding us that our God is a wise and loving Father who is in complete control of every situation and even though we don’t understand why we have to go through certain things, He is using it to fulfill His purposes.
Thanking God reveals the true state of our hearts. Before we can be truly grateful, our hearts must be right with God. If we haven’t surrendered ourselves to God’s will for us, we will resent what God is doing in our lives rather than being grateful for it. If you can’t be grateful, there is a serious possibility that you are not letting Christ be Lord of your life.
Gratitude is so important to our Christian walk that the opposites, greed and covetousness, are vehemently condemned throughout scripture. When God in flesh walked upon this earth, He warned us, “Beware of covetousness. For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke12:15) The New Testament also calls covetousness idolatry. (Col.3:5) In fact, covetousness is so dangerous that we are not even to keep the company of a covetous man! (1 Cor. 5:11)
Coveting is one of the worst insults we can give our Creator. It is an insult to His love, goodness, wisdom, and power. Covetousness screams at God, “You are not enough. You don’t know what’s best!!” Along with blasphemy, the habit of coveting can do irreparable damage to our souls. Paul warned Timothy, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Those are strong words that we would be fools to ignore!
Covetousness keeps us in a state of perpetual “poverty.” As Claudian said, “The man who covets is always poor.” It is not he who has little who is poor, but he who wants more. We need to remind ourselves that happiness does not lie in acquiring new things but in enjoying what you have with a grateful heart.
We take so much for granted. We live in a country where our garbage disposals eat better than 30% of the world population! I don’t know why we are so ungrateful. If everything you have was taken from you and then given back, just think how happy you would be! Don’t make the same mistake as the lady who had to admit, “What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”
We have so much to be grateful for! A sovereign God who loves us more than we can comprehend! The debt of our sins has been paid in full! Many of us have healthy bodies that we don’t fully appreciate. Joni Eareckson Tada has spent the last thirty years in a wheelchair. She is so excited about the day when she will be able to use her body to serve others. We have a glorious future that is to die for! Heaven will be more wonderful than our wildest dreams! That alone should keep us grateful like the old Puritan who sat down to a bowl of porridge, looked around, and exclaimed, “Wow, all this and heaven too!”
God has given us far beyond what we need. He has been extravagant in His gifts to us. He invented hundreds of delicious flavors when we could have eaten tasteless hay. He created dazzling beauty and brilliant colors when this world could have been a drab black and white. He gave us music and sounds that overwhelm us and sensations of touch that bring immeasurable pleasure. It’s too bad we often don’t appreciate these things until they are taken. I read about a couple who, while sitting in a lobby, noticed a man intensely studying a sunset. Intrigued, they went up to him and asked, “Are you an artist?” The man smiled. “No, I’m a plumber, but I was blind for five years.”
I believe that in gratitude for who God is and all He has done, we can find an often untapped source of limitless joy. I have been testing my hypothesis and it works! I have gone from “blah” to near ecstasy simply by thanking God. He has done so much for us and given us so much. How can we dare to give Him anything less then sincere gratitude? Give it a try. Next time you are feeling down, stressed, discouraged, or angry, remember all that your loving Heavenly Father has done for you and let His goodness overwhelm your soul!