To be truly thankful is one of life’s most enriching experiences. Everything looks different in a good way. Thankfulness grows on us or explodes in us. In a flash or over time, we know we have been given something we didn’t deserve, and there’s a delicious sensation of being blessed.
Thankfulness is also a choice. Scripture urges us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” adding, “and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Would God command us to be thankful if we couldn’t do that? I don’t think so. We have the ability to choose to be thankful; God gives us the grace to do so. Thankfulness may allow the peace of Christ to rule – the word means to be the umpire – in whatever situations we find ourselves. But it may begin with a choice to be thankful.
Even in difficult times, we can decide to be thankful. Scripture calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Be careful not to read that as a summons to be thankful for all circumstances. No. Some things are not good. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, it did not feel good. To give thanks in every circumstance is to be grateful that we do not face anything alone. When we walk into a valley of deep darkness, we need fear no evil because God is with us.
Often thankfulness is not a knee-jerk response for me. God has to tug on me, get my attention, open my eyes, give me another perspective. Slicing a ham recently, we suddenly discovered the juice of the ham was running all over the counter-top, down the front of the dishwasher and onto the floor. That’s why our dog was licking his chops at our feet! Thankfulness was not my first reaction.
It’s the most fun, and the most transforming, when we recognize the goodness and grace we are sampling at the moment. That happened recently for me with a flat tire. Having aired the tire once, I pulled into my garage in just the right spot so that, standing behind the car, I could see the head of a nail in a rear tire. I attempted to pull the nail out, hoping the hole might seal. But a gush of air said, don’t do that. Carefully, I pushed the nail back into the tire. I didn’t want to drag out the spare, jack up the car, struggle to break the lug nuts loose, put on the spare and drive it in for repair. But wait. I was not somewhere along a highway, with a narrow shoulder, battling a flat tire. I was in the comfort of my garage. I was thankful.
Of late, I was unable to call my wife’s cell phone or receive her calls. Annoying at best, it was also a great concern because my mother, who is prone to falling, was with us. What if she fell when I was away from home and Mary needed me? Since Mary’s phone was long overdue for replacement, I thought her phone was the problem. Researching the cost of a new phone only added to my frustration. So I called tech support. A patient tech person methodically combed through possible reasons and was stumped again and again. She surmised that I may have blocked my wife’s phone. Blocked her? No way. Yes, I had. It was funny. Driving home from a church meeting that evening of the breakthrough, I was so thankful the problem had been resolved. I only had to swallow my pride, and I did not have to buy a new phone.
In my last blog post, I wrote about Mary’s scary diagnosis of Giant Cell Arteritis. We are about halfway through the treatment, and she is making remarkable progress. Again and again, we’ve been filled with thankfulness for how God went before us and led us to the right doctor, in time for a positive prognosis. And the peace of Christ rules.
The Psalmist wrote in the 103rd Psalm, “May I never forget the good things God does for me.” Yes, may I never forget. “God, open my heart that I may be a truly thankful person.”