A grateful heart, they say, is a magnet for miracles. As Christians, we are taught to be thankful to God for all His blessings. Most of us are therefore programmed from an early age to thank God for good things that come our way. However, when we meet with the rough patches of life, we often feel ‘let down’ by this same God who has been blessing us all along. How do we react to these difficult phases? How are we to reconcile to a set of changed and often difficult circumstances in life? Can we be thankful to God, no matter what Life throws our way? James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Are we ready to accept trials as tests of faith? Do we want to develop perseverance? These are choices every Christian has to make.
In following the Christian walk, it makes perfect sense to practice the art of thanking God even in the midst of difficult circumstances because we know that He has promised to be with us and help us. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). In real life, it’s easy for me to feel grateful to God when all my life plans are ticking to clockwork precision. But when life turns topsy-turvy, and I am left distressed and confused, what is there to thank God for? Here Psalm 118:29 reminds us: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His love is eternal.” On a personal note, I have at long last come to realise that giving thanks to God for all things clearly demonstrates a personal acknowledgement that He is a good God, regardless of whether I consider my life situations to be a blessing or a burden. I must admit, however, that I seldom understand God’s purposes in the twists and turns of my life.
Thankfulness to God in all circumstances is undoubtedly an admirable attribute. At a deeper level, can we extend it any further? I’m often amazed at how we claim to be thankful to God and yet do not express gratitude to those around us for services and favours, big and small. Is that so because we live in a culture that takes so much for granted? I sometimes wonder. The reasoning perhaps is, if a service is being paid for, or expected of an individual, where is the need to express gratitude? This seems to be the accepted norm. Recently, I said ‘thank you’ to an auto driver after the ride, and his reaction was one of shock! When asked why he was so surprised, he told me that people seldom express gratitude for a paid service. He went on to say that only foreigners practice politeness, and that local people seldom have any manners. This interaction left me mildly embarrassed. It brought home to me that thankfulness demands a certain amount of mental discipline and requires regular practice. It may not come to us overnight, but with the right attitude and resolve, we can practice thankfulness in our daily lives and in our Christian walk. It then becomes a way of life for us. Expressing gratitude to another person is a gracious act of humility. It also helps spread happiness and goodwill to those around us. “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness” a pin-up poster reads. How very true!
A grateful heart to God and the practice of daily expressions of thankfulness to those around me is one of my core resolutions for 2019.