Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obstacles to a Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here again, but where does it go the rest of the year?  Why is it that we can come up with something to tell people we are thankful for while sit around the dining room table on the 4th Thursday in November, but have such a hard time with genuine thankfulness the rest of the time?

At the root of the problem lies 3 obstacles to true thankfulness:

1. "I deserve it!"  Whether it is clearly stated or just implied, just about every commercial that you see aims to tell us that we "deserve" to have this product.  It is hardly surprising that this is such a widely used marketing ploy, because it is one that we so eagerly believe.  We have been taught that we deserve food, we deserve a home, we deserve an education - what about the child in Bangladesh, don't they deserve these things?  I'm not making a political statement here, but our notion of being deserving is utterly warped.  The truth is, we are phenomenally blessed.  What we deserve is the wrath of God because we have rebelled against Him, what we get instead is His patient mercy, and through Jesus Christ, His righteousness.
Next time you are tempted to say or to think, "I deserve this," remember: no you don't, but thanks be to God you have been blessed beyond measure.

2. "I earned it!"  This is often an extension of the "I deserve it" obstacle.  Most of us work hard at what we do and have been led to believe that what we have is entirely because of our own effort.  We are able to make a living, only because God has granted us the strength and the abilities to do so, and only because He has given us favor with an employer and seen fit to allow our employer to prosper, and so on.  At the heart of thanksgiving is the realization that we can only be truly thankful when we recognize the one to whom we are thankful.  When we recognize God as the source of all we have, any notion that we are deserving or have earned something for ourselves falls by the way side and we are left simply declaring, "Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good, His steadfast love endures for ever."

3. "I need more!" The third obstacle is all about contentment.  Most of us wrestle with truly being thankful for what we have because deep down we have come to believe that it is not enough.  "Maybe when I have just a little more," we reason, "I will be content."  But even when we get more, there is still more that we want.  This obstacle takes us full circle back to the first one, "I deserve more."  But the problem with a lack of contentment is that it will keep us from truly enjoying the blessings that we do have, it will poison our ability to be thankful, it will cause us to call into question God's goodness (if He was truly good, He would give me more).  What's more without contentment, our desire for more will never ever be satisfied.

When we turn our focus to God and remember that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights and that "Your heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children," then we begin to move to a heart of thankfulness.  This thanksgiving, remember that God is your source and your provider.  Remember that everything that you have ultimately belongs to Him, but He graciously allows you to enjoy His blessings, and entrust your needs and desires to Him, asking that He will give you a heart of contentment and will meet every need in His way and His time.  Declare your thanksgiving, declare your dependence and declare your trust, because He is good!

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