Reflection #39 – ‘And Be Thankful’

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.

‘And Be Thankful’

It’s easy to forget. And forgetting it will become the source of a lot of complaining, discontentment and anger in our lives. It causes discouragement and depression. So don’t forget to be thankful!

After mentioning a long list of Christian graces we must put on – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiving one another, love, peace – Paul adds one more sentence, almost as an afterthought: And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15) As if to say, “And, by the way, don’t forget to be thankful!”

But it’s not an afterthought; it’s more like the last word on the subject of Christian graces. A thankful spirit is the key to living the Christian life. Without it none of the other graces work. How can you be humble if you’re not thankful? How can you love someone if you’re not thankful?

Thanksgiving is the grace of being able to see God’s blessings even when everything seems to be going badly. It is the power given to you by the Holy Spirit to see God’s goodness in all that is going on in your life and world. He fills your life always with underserved gifts!

At the same time it is the spiritual discipline of counting your blessings and offering up praise to God for all He has done for you, is doing for you right now, and will yet do for you in the future. And be thankful is a command. Since we easily become blind to the good that God is doing and the gifts God is giving, we are called to search and see God’s goodness and give thanks.

Especially if life is really dark for you right now, take a moment to write out a list of blessings from God you’re enjoying right now and give Him thanks. Count your blessings and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

When we become blind to the blessings that will bring a lot of mischief into our lives. There is a spirit of unbelief in that which produces constant complaining, self-pity, depression, anger, and unkindness.   

Thanksgiving comes from faith. It comes from seeing God’s hand and God’s goodness in our lives. This is why Paul commands us to remember to be thankful when we’re giving our worries to God in prayer. Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6) Add a note of thanksgiving to every request you bring to God. There is never a good reason to be unthankful, even when your life is wrapped up in anxieties.

Thankfulness has two opposing vices – one is pride where you’re so focused on how talented and smart you are, and on all your wonderful accomplishments, that there’s little room to look past yourself and see that you have nothing in yourself; it is all a gift from God for His glory.  

The other enemy of thanksgiving is self-pity. You’ve become so focused on the things you’re missing, and on the troubles you’re facing, that you can’t see the abundance of God’s blessing. Self-pity is the evil twin of pride. It focuses on self and refuses to see the goodness of God.

And be thankful!

Joni Eareckson Tada reminds us that God calls us to be thankful in everything. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) No matter what your circumstances are, you have reasons to give thanks.

But Joni says that this doesn’t go far enough. Too often we hear it said that we must give thanks in everything but that doesn’t mean we have to give thanks for everything. Not true, she says. What about Ephesians 5:20? Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

She proceeds to give thanks to God for the diving accident that broke her neck and made her a quadriplegic so that she turned to Jesus Christ and was saved. God used that terrible event to move her to dedicate the rest of her life to the Lord. She thanks the Lord for her lifeless limbs and her wheelchair every day. (see Nancy Leigh de Moss, Choosing Gratitude)

I’m reminded of the example of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom in The Hiding Place. Remember how they were shoved and crammed into the women’s barracks in the German concentration camp in Ravensbruck?  Soon they discovered it was infested with fleas. Corrie wailed in horror. But soon Corrie and Betsy were thanking the Lord for the fleas because it kept the guards away and allowed them the sweet freedom of doing Bible studies with all the other women.

And be thankful.

Have you allowed thanksgiving to slip away from your mind and mouth? Have you closed your heart to the goodness and mercy of God? Have you allowed anger to strangle a thankful spirit?

Remember what God is for you and does for you in everything in Jesus Christ. In Jesus you are rich, full, and blessed every day and in every way.