If someone unfamiliar with the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner saw the spread of sides and plentiful pumpkin pies, I wonder if their first response would be, “now THIS is how you communicate thankfulness!” I guess it depends on how hungry they are.
What are you hungry for?
We all know thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, but thankfulness seems fleeting, doesn’t it? When you’re driving, aren’t you thankful for the way people drive around you? How about typical conversations with neighbors, friends, coworkers— aren’t they just dripping with thankfulness? Aren’t people grateful for their salary? Grateful for those in authority? One word to describe Twitter, television, and the news is thankful! (I’m thankful for sarcasm).
Doesn’t it seem like ingratitude rules the day? It’s almost as if we’re slowly, and not so subtly, being pulled to be thankless.
I’ve come to learn that it is hard to be thankful for that which I think I deserve.
The more we believe we deserve, the less thankful we will be. Which is why believing in a sovereign and good God that chooses to give life, is a good starting point for cultivating thankfulness. From God, we remember that life is received, not earned.
We did nothing to earn life; we can do very little to preserve it. If all of life is a gift, the breath in our lungs, the mountains and trees, the family and friends… then we should engage all of life with thankfulness and joy! So, why do we struggle to?
Because the human heart is bent inward, instead of Godward. Instead of finding satisfaction in the God who made us, we try to find it in our stuff, our image, our friends, even ourselves… and we’re left unsatisfied. Acutely aware of the nagging feeling of dissatisfaction as our accomplishments and accouterments fail to satiate us. This, I believe, is the root of our unthankfulness.
Fighting for self-satisfaction through self-actualization is not only exhausting, but terribly lonely. The secret to the human heart is that it can’t find joy and satisfaction until it turns away from self, and towards the God who made, sustains, and satisfies our hearts. And this is why Jesus Christ came to the earth.
He is the gift of God giving Himself to us, that we would receive Him. At the heart of thankfulness is a heart of humility. And the wonderful thing about Jesus is that he walks the road of humility for us. He is the innocent suffering Savior who is unjustly nailed to a cross, because he wants to turn our dissatisfaction and ingratitude in this life into unending joy and thankfulness of having fellowship with Him forever.
His death, and subsequent resurrection, has the power to transform our hearts and minds to see that everything we are, and everything we have, is not a product of our achievements, but rather a gift of his grace. The quest to discover our true selves is not found deeper within, but rather in the One who gave Himself for us.
Jesus Christ doesn’t look down on you and tell you to try harder and to be more thankful. Instead, He came to you to show you how much there is to be thankful for in relationship with Him. He came to me, in my ingratitude, to change my heart. He is the only God who has, and who ever will, experience the sting of death for his people. The only One to rise again for His people. He does this so that we may “taste and see that He is good” (Ps. 34:8).
Thankfulness abounds when you experience the humility of a God who gave His own life for you.
I wonder if Thanksgiving is a feast because we hunger for more?
I encourage you to find thankfulness that lasts forever. Believe in the One you were created to enjoy, Jesus Christ Himself. It is from Him that everything else in life can be enjoyed thankfully.
………………..Michael TenBarge, Pastor-Elder of Calvary Foothills Church