Being Grateful When Things Aren’t Great (Nov 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Matt Dabbs

It is easy to think you are a thankful person when the gratitude you have is mostly about things that make you happy. If I am honest with myself 99% of what I am thankful for or events that produce prayers of thankfulness are due to the outcome being something I view as favorable or make me happy. That is not all bad. God wants us to be thankful when times are good but not just in times like that. I don’t think we need to pay penance, scourge ourselves with whips and be thankful only for painful things but I do think it is easy to get this thankfulness thing out of balance. It is too easy for consumerism to drive our thankfulness and miss out on being thankful to God for some of the most profound ways he draws us closer to himself.

There is one way to discover a criterion for thankfulness that runs deeper than thankfulness for events that advance us or make us feel good. We can look to Jesus and see what he expressed thanks for. The first thing I am drawn to is the Lord’s Supper. Christians around the world call this the Eucharist. That is the Greek word Jesus used during the supper when he “gave thanks.” The Supper is a time of thanksgiving. From our perspective it is easy to be thankful for the Supper because we realize that through the broken body of Jesus and his shed blood, our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life. If anything makes me feel good that certainly does. So I am thankful and express that thankfulness to God. God wants me to be thankful for those things.

That, however, is not the whole perspective God wants us to have in regard to what makes us thankful. Have a listen to Jesus’ own view of the Supper in Luke 22:19-20 where it says,

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the wine. In doing so Jesus was fully expecting his own torture, his own crucifixion, scourging, and bloody death. His body really would be broken. His blood really would be that which is, “poured out for [us]” and he “gave thanks” anyway. Would I? I am not so sure that I would. I would probably be feeling pretty crazy and irrational at that point. The last thing on my mind to say to some guys busy piercing my hands and feet with nails, stabbing me in the side with a spear, jabbing thorns in my head and beating me with whips would be, “Thank you very much, sir” (not to mention taking on the sins of humanity).

All of a sudden my standard of what makes me thankful gets flipped on its head and I feel like the biggest jerk in the world because my Lord demonstrated to me that the things we should be most thankful for don’t always seem that way on the surface. Some things we should be thankful for hurt. Some things we should be thankful for will make us bleed. Sometimes thankfulness will come through our own brokenness, cross bearing, or taking insults for the name of Jesus Christ. Am I willing to let Jesus’ attitude be my attitude?

Lord, be patient with my puny attempts at thankfulness. Help me redefine my own feelings of gratitude by re-orienting them around lessons learned from observing when Jesus expressed his own thankfulness to you.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataDecember 5th, 2013
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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