I am so ungrateful.
I read a story the other day of a young man with a bandaged hand that walked into a post office. As he approached the clerk at the desk the young man asked, “Excuse me, sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The clerk, after noticing the boys bandaged hand, obliged his request and even wrote a message on the card.
The clerk then asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The young man looked at the card for a moment and then said, “Yes, add a P.S.: ‘Please excuse the handwriting.’”
If there is one thing I love about the Thanksgiving holiday it’s that life tends to slow down just enough for me to consider the many blessings that I have been given. It is the one time a year where I am forced to stop and think hard about all the things that I am thankful for—and I find that my life is very long.
Sadly, this reveals something about me, and how I live my life the rest of the year. Like the young man in the story, I realize that I have a propensity to live everyday as an ungrateful person. It takes a single holiday every year to force me to into thinking hard about the things I am thankful for. Which only shows how ungrateful I tend to be.
The good news is God knows how stubbornly ungrateful I am and all of his people tend to be, and he wants to help us learn how to be thankful. He does this by giving us reminders of his many blessings and promises. All throughout Scripture, God has provided his people with unique reminders that help them to never forget the things he has done.
Most people in our generation live everyday by a calendar or alarm on their phone that reminds them of something important. These are wonderful tools that enable us to be efficient and not miss out on the things we are supposed to do. Events like birthdays, holidays, meetings, phone calls, dates, and even prayer times all tend to make it into our phones to help us remember. God has done something similar.
When Joshua crossed over the river into the land of Canaan, the children of Israel were to set up large stones in the water to remind them of God’s protection and guidance. God gave them festivals and holidays to remind them of how he delivered, saved, and chose them as his special people. All these and more were simple reminders to cause the nation of Israel to worship the Lord and Him alone.
In the New Testament, Jesus instituted communion (The Lord’s Supper) as a sacred act, which was to be done often so that his disciples would remember what he did for them—and the response was to be gratitude for his grace.
Our propensity to forget is a mark of our brokenness. Because of this, we should view remembering and gratitude as a discipline, a daily and intentional act, a conscious choice. I love the Thanksgiving holiday and I use it as a means of remembering God’s acts and promises of grace in my life. However,
if you and I limit the discipline of gratitude to just a few moments in the calendar year, we will gradually neglect the work of God in our lives and never truly live in the grace he has abundantly provided.
Here are three things to remember this thanksgiving in order to cultivate a regular discipline of gratitude:
First, remember what God has done in the past. Think about all the things that he has done for you. The things he has protected you from or allowed in your life to bring you closer to him. Of course, remember the gospel: that Christ came and died and rose again; that he bore your shame and guilt and punishment on the cross; that he was forsaken so that you can be forgiven. Remember that by faith in the gospel you are now a child of God, brought into a royal family, and you will never again be alone or rejected.
Second, remember the present. Take a moment to look around (yeah, right now, look around) and think of how blessed you are, both materially and spiritually. There are people who love and care about you.
Along with being ungrateful people, we can also be complainers. It is hard to be grateful on the present when all we do is complain about our circumstances. Choose in this very moment to be grateful and be content with what God has provided.
Third, remember our future. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, to remember the future, but God has given us in his word a glimpse into our future as believers. We can look at our world and the moral climate of our country and be fearful and complain. But the Bible tells us that our citizenship is not here; it is in heaven, an eternal resting place prepared by Christ for his people. Therefore, like Moses, we look for a city whose builder and maker is God. That is my future, and it is yours, too!
Don’t let Thanksgiving be the only time of the year that you decide to be grateful. Instead, cultivate a discipline of thankfulness everyday for all that the Lord has done.