I’m fairly certain that I came out of the womb writing thank you notes. My first probably said something like, “Hey mom! Thanks for the ride!” Being the first grandchild, my grandmother drilled it into me that you always wrote thank you notes. She probably let me off the hook until I was able to keep my tiny fist out of my mouth long enough to hold a writing utensil. Then, I had thank you cards like this:
Really sincere, right? If only I could have these for all occasions…
I am thankful though, that I learned at such a young age that if you don’t write your grandmother a thank you note she will call and say, “Did you get my package?” daily until she receives one, even if it is pre-written and all you have to do is fill in the blanks.
Don’t worry, I’ll return back to this topic of insincere gratitude. There is a point to it.
In recent years, I have become well-versed in cynicism. I do alot of scoffing- so much so that I need some scoff syrup (hyuck, hyuck). I scoff at church. I scoff at American consumerism in stores. I scoff at bias in news stories. In college, I read a book called Pagan Christianity, which challenged many of the ideas about church I had grown up with and caused me to seriously examine and rethink my beliefs about church. I’ve come out the other side with a more discerning spirit, which is a good thing, but I’m also cynical and a little bitter, which is a bad thing. This bitterness has spread to other parts of my life and let me tell you this: Bitter life is no fun. Cynicism saps my joy. It encourages me to focus on the negative. I’ve become Susie Raincloud.
So, in response to this revelation about my recent spiritual bitterness, God’s been battering me with the idea of “thanksgiving” lately. If you look for it, thanksgiving is in the Bible ALOT. We’re told to give thanks in all circumstances, give thanks for God’s unfailing love, sing and make music in our hearts to God always giving thanks for everything, . We’re told to give thanks, whatever we do. We are told to give thanks when we are restored, which will add to the numbers of those that love God. We’re supposed to replace obscenities, coarse joking, and foolish talk with thanksgiving. David gave thanks at midnight for God’s laws. Daniel gave thanks when the King passed a law that people could only pray to him for 30 days. Jonah gave thanks from inside a large fish, after what most certainly must be the worst day of his life. Anna gave thanks when she met baby Jesus. Whether abstaining from food or enjoying it, we are asked to give thanks. We are told there are many expressions of thanks to God. Thanks is an important part of our new identity when we choose to follow God. Isaiah 51:3 says: The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
It seems that gratitude is woven into the very fabric of Christian life. When lined up alongside virtues like peace, joy, patience, gratitude seems like it’s a virtue that’s often overlooked. When we choose gratitude, we choose Jesus. That’s a big deal.
Here’s the thing, though. The kind of thanks that is mentioned in the Bible isn’t referring to the cookie-cutter gratitude that we’ve become accustomed to lately- “I’m thankful for my house, my family, my job, my friends. Thanks for liking my status update! Thanks for holding the door open for me!” Appreciation has almost become meaningless in our society. It seems like these days we, myself included, can only throw up an offer of thanks when God’s saved us from some impending catastrophe and even then, it’s more like, “Whew! I’m really glad that didn’t happen to me.” We only thank God for the things He’s done for us- like thanking Santa Claus for bringing you a bicycle.
Nope. The kind of gratitude that the Bible prescribes is the kind of gratitude that curls your toes, the kind of gratitude that brings tears to your eyes, the kind of gratitude that comes from somewhere deep inside you. One thing that strikes me about biblical gratitude is that it often speaks to being thankful for who God is. Not for what He’s done for them, or how He’s saved them, but for His greatness, His power, His righteousness. That’s pretty intimate stuff right there.
I’m done with insincere gratitude, the fill-in-the-blank thank you’s that society approves of. I’m tired of just throwing God a peace sign as I rush out the door to work or a nod of thanks as I drift off to sleep at night. I’m tired of cynicism and bitterness choking out true, overflowing joy in my life.
So, starting tomorrow, for the next six weeks, I’m going to ask God to help me cultivate a spirit of gratitude. I will practice being grateful to God for who He is, not because of what He’s given me. I will try to choose thanksgiving over complaints. I will be intentional about choosing gratitude over cynicism.
The Gratitude Project.