I heard a story this week about a man who had a stroke three years ago. And every morning after that he woke up and gave thanks: for another day of life, for the sky and the sun, for his wife and family, for the walker that enabled him to get around. I am humbled by his habit of thanks, when I consider how easy it is to complain about the circumstances you’ve been given. And maybe he was humbled by this habit also. Maybe that was the secret of his joyful heart that refused to take anything for granted; just a humble heart that bowed to the will of his Maker every day, and accepted grace.
We are counting again, this November– in journals, on refrigerator reminders, on desks in the study– listing our blessings on paper to help us focus and remember that all is gift, and God is the giver. We are doing it as a worthwhile Thanksgiving holiday project, healthy for mind and spirit. But what we have discovered is that it is a valuable discipline for year-round orienting of our hearts on the Provider…so that we can live humbly and worshipfully in His presence. For some especially, it is a lifeline of hope this month, a necessary looking for God’s presence and power in our lives, a choice to take feelings captive and submit them to the truth of God’s loving faithfulness. “…I know the plans I have for you,” He whispers. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
But thankfulness is never automatic. Just like we teach our children to take the time to honor the gift-giver with a thank you, we need to train our hearts to do the same. It is at the heart of Self-sufficiency to take for granted all these daily things, chalk them up to our own worth and deserving place in the universe. It usually requires a rather serious overturning of perspectives to see it all as Grace and ourselves as the needy recipients. And those who have been shaken can resonate with the Singer’s words: “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling….I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:8,17) Only the rescued and the forgiven truly know what a treasure Grace is.
Wherever we are today, we will choose to be thankful. Because He is God and we are His people. It is the right response to the God Who Is Enough, and in it we find an unexpected pathway to joy.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
“To celebrate life is simply a choice. Every day, God extends his hand to offer me the gift of another day to live. I have the choice to take that gift and turn it into 24 hours of real life in Christ, or just let it become another 24 hours endured in a broken world. If I choose to accept it—to transform those minutes and hours into life lived for and with my Savior—I have the opportunity to see God at work, enjoy his presence, wonder at his creation, appreciate the expressions of his beauty and love, and touch the minds and hearts of [others] with his reality.” (Sally Clarkson)