2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col 4:2)
Thankfulness is consistently linked with prayer in the Scriptures. So . . . .
Why is my gratitude level when things are awesome so much lower than my frustration level when things are difficult? Let me say that another way: Why do my feelings of discouragement or anger or fear during difficult times, outweigh my feelings of gratitude or appreciation when things are easier? Since God is amazing and faithful, why don’t I naturally overflow with thankfulness like I should?
I still desperately need to improve, but over time I’ve found some tools to help me be more thankful:
1) Be Intentional:
If I only express gratefulness when I feel that way, it’s not going to happen often enough.
But like so many other truths in the Christian life, our actions precede our feelings rather than the opposite. That means if I intentionally communicate my thankfulness to God–even when I don’t feel particularly grateful– I can often expect the actual feelings of thankfulness to eventually follow. Even if they don’t I will still have been obedient.
2) Realize it’s Good For You
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. That’s 1 Thess 5:17, and it’s taped to our bathroom mirror. It’s been there for years. Why? Because I need a constant reminder that it’s God’s will for me to be thankful. It doesn’t come naturally . . .
There is an actual science of gratitude now developing that shows amazing benefits from being thankful.
3) Keep Track of God’s Faithfulness
A few years ago I started using the Notes app on my phone to jot down events and circumstances I was grateful for–right after they occurred. When I only had 3 or 4 notes it seemed kind of pointless, but as I kept at it the entries (which now number in the dozens or hundreds) turned into something much more profound. They became a literal track record of God’s faithfulness. My notes range from “Michael gave his life to Christ at church” to “played chess with my (young) son for the first time,” to “encouraging comments about the worship team” to “Ravens 38, Broncos 35 (2 OT),” and more. It only takes about 30 seconds a day to do this. Sometimes days or weeks go by where I forget to update the list. But I’ve managed to keep it going in some form for several years now.
On difficult days (which are inevitable) I go back and skim through it; and stand amazed at the goodness, faithfulness, encouragement, mercy, grace, love, friendship, and power that God has provided–that I have simply forgotten about. I am re-overwhelmed by His faithfulness and it gives me strength to keep going, and reminds me that so much of what I worry about never comes to pass.
We need to constantly devise ways to remember God’s faithfulness. Why? Because we forget! My tendency too often is to move back to frustration, fear, lack of faith, complaint–or all of the above–about the next looming obstacle. The irony is that God already knows the solution for that one too. He’s not worried.
4) Thank God for the Intangibles
My older son was born at 10 pounds 9 ounces, two weeks late. The labor was induced, and my wife still had to have a C-section. 150 years ago both he and my wife could easily have died in childbirth. My younger son would never have existed.
I have daily access to clean water (lack of which halved the life span of Americans about 100 years ago).
I have dozens of Bible versions, most of the music I’ve ever owned, a great camera, and dozens of games on the smartphone in my pocket .
I have conveniences and an ease of life my ancestors could never have dreamed of.
All of these are opportunities to thank God.
5) Have a Mini-Concert of Thankfulness
Sometimes on days that I’m struggling or frustrated, I’ll pre-determine an amount of time (10 minutes is usually enough) to do nothing but thank God, for anything that comes to mind to thank Him for.
It’s easy to try this: Just lock yourself away in an undistracted location. Set a timer on your phone if you need to. And–honestly–thank God (and only thank God, don’t ask for anything or pray for anything else) until the timer goes off. 10 minutes is usually more than enough to take me from frustrated or discouraged, to grateful for how He has come through in the past and can come through again.
6) Ask for help
I believe that “God please help me to be more thankful” is a prayer He loves to answer.
Does thankfulness come naturally to you?
How could you be more thankful today?