Joy Comes Through Thankfulness

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100:4-5

The holiday season is here with Thanksgiving just a few days away. Dallas Emerson, an 11th grader, spoke this week in our school assembly about how a thankful heart should reside within us each and every day and not just at Thanksgiving.

He is right of course. We know that.  It’s God’s will for us to be thankful in absolutely everything.

Yet why is it so easy to instead fall into grumbling and complaining?

  • For one, criticizing and grumbling feels good at the moment. For each and every one of us, life is not exactly how we want it to be.  We all have things that we wish were different – so we tell people about it. Our house could be nice ;  our jobs – less stressful;  our health and bodies – improved;  our spouses – more responsive;  our kids –  more responsible;  the weather- could at least cooperate; and we could always use more money.
  • In addition, we delude ourselves into thinking that something different than what we have will bring us joy.

Complaining however does absolutely nothing to change things and even makes things worse by increasing discontentment and despair. Our very worst enemy may not be our circumstances, rather our complaining mindset, which serves to compound our misery and decrease our joy.

If grumbling and complaining is a part of your every day experience, try bathing your frustrations in thanksgiving instead.  Try seeing your circumstances through the opposite lens of gratitude. It will change your perspective and change your life. Guaranteed.

It’s because complaining and gratitude cannot reside within you at the same time. They are contrastive attitudes, each driving out the other. Complaining puts the focus on what is negative about your life.  Gratitude keeps you mindful of your blessings.

True character of a person is revealed not just by one’s loves, but also by one’s complaints.

Life at times includes aching pain and deep hurts, conditions that are impossible to be thankful for- the loss of a child, an unfaithful spouse, a home destroyed by natural disaster, a terminal illness. These are impossible to be thankful FOR.  But we can be thankful in the midst of them.  Be thankful IN everything – this is the will of God, that we view Him as sovereign and able to cause all things to work together for our good.  (Romans 8:28)  Through the giving of thanks in the midst of our trials, we enter into his gates and into the safety of His arms where our enemy can’t reach us.

In hindsight, the times I am most grateful are those toughest of times during which I have had to surrender my self sufficient ways and lay myself at the feet of Jesus. These are the times when I grow the most. These are the times  when only Jesus can calm my fears and soothe my aching heart.  These are the times when I think God delights in surprising us in ways we least expect and in ways we can’t imagine.

Be thankful IN the midst of everything:

  • For your greatest challenges because in these God may bring about your sweetest blessings
  • For stretching times because God desires to grow you out of His love for you
  • For problems only God can solve on your behalf

Ann Voskamp in “One Thousand Gifts” says it so eloquently:

“So then as long as thanks is possible then joy is always possible…the holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience.  The joy wonder could be here.  Here in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be- unbelievably – possible.”  She goes on to say that “he who has learned this knows what it means to live.”

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2

Be anxious for nothing but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.

Philippians 4:6

3 Comments

  1. “For one, criticizing and grumbling feels good at the moment.”

    This is so helpful in order to navigate through some of the stuff that I feel at times. Too often I use the excuse of “venting” as if it justifies my complaining or my ingratitude.

    I love how you state that complaining and gratitude do not coexist. It’s almost like they have an inverse relationship.

    This is so helpful for me today Ellen thank you I love the 1000 gifts book.

    Reply
  2. It’s true that we have so many reasons to be thankful, and sad that we often don’t think much about them until Thanksgiving. This was convicting. Thank you for reminding me that God tells us to be thankful in everything.

    Reply
  3. Thank you Ellen for planting this on my heart today. I’m so grateful for your wisdom and they way your words flow just perfectly to speak to me.

    Reply

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