I knew a young woman some years ago, who was just married to her dream man. And she had a tiny cottage with a huge oak tree. She decorated and painted and imagined and arranged and she made that modest cottage just lovely.
But she had a problem. She was miserable. She was not content with her life, perfect as it was. She said to me several times with anguish of guilt, “I am supposed to have a meek and quiet sprit and I don’t!” I said to her, “Ask for it. That must come from God.”
When we are unhappy with life, most of us blame people and circumstances. We equate ‘happiness’ with having everything to our liking. John wrote about this recently. We really believe we deserve that life should make us happy, and not that we are responsible to find to the way to joy – joie de vivre. We tolerate unhappiness as real, we accept that life and God have cheated us. It never occurs to us that we cheat life and God.
But my friend knew her unhappiness was sin. She was blessed. How could she be unhappy? Since she dealt with her discontent as wrong, she could only pray. And this she did with fervor!
Gratitude Isn’t Human
As the years passed, my young friend settled into life and family. And she grew more content with life as it was. She became a skilled businesswoman, learning God’s wisdom in the world while not ‘of it.’ She had busy, athletic, smart kids. And an active husband…who was a good partner and father.
And she loved her life with unending gratitude to God. It wasn’t an easy life, I knew her gravestones: death to Riches, here died Optimism, there is buried I-want-my-way, this tombstone is Anger toward injustice. Serious Troubles took her to a number of funerals.
Her favorite saying remained, “I love my life. What could be better?” And since I knew her life of many sorrows and cruel disappointments, I could marvel that in spite of all, she was effusive, that she “adored” her situation. The people in her life were precious and dear. She so praised her God for her joyful life of hard work! And this amazing thing: she wouldn’t want anything changed.
She is not natural and her gratitude is not human. Human nature is essentially just ungrateful, unhappy, unsatisfied and unwilling to BE satisfied. You can try to be grateful. You can grit your teeth and determine to be grateful on Monday but by Friday you have forgotten your vow.
What this unnatural woman has is a spiritual gift wrought out by intense prayer. God answered her cry with Christ Himself, He whose satisfaction and joy was evident. Because her thankfulness is a gift of grace, it is ever growing. Actually her gratitude is the formation of Christ Himself, within her. And that gift is unassailable and inexhaustible…because it is only Jesus’ gratitude.
Gratitude is Chosen
I can give thanks to God by my sheer choice of will. And that really does open the heavens. I can overflow with praise and gratitude at times. But I am speaking here of a life that breathes thanksgiving to God, a mind of unending gratefulness, and that is Christ alone!
So I see that my efforts to be thankful – because I am commanded to give thanks – are futile, not to mention failing, unless I look to Christ for the Life that breathes worship and joy. His very nature pours thanksgiving on His good Father. And that Life is mine within if I will need His holy delight to displace my petulant self.
The Holy Spirit assures us that all humanity knows this: there is a Magnificent God and He is good. That is visible and clear to all. We are without excuse. Knowing that God IS beautiful and powerful, we can do nothing less than give Him thanks for all…
Romans 1:20-21 (ESV)
For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
There are only two things in the New Testament that are basic to spiritual purity, only two issues that secure a life with God’s presence and His pleasure.
- To recognize that God IS God and more…He is beautiful and magnificent. All Creation shouts His glory.
- To give Him thanks.
How to gain this gratitude?
the Only Life that ever truly and always ‘honored and thanked’ God.