How does one be “thankful”. Why does God tell us to be thankful?
What happens if we aren’t thankful enough. Does God punish us?
Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Ps. 106:1)
I think the problem is that our default position is to think of “thanksgiving” somewhat like a kid being forced to write notes to a distant aunt.
“Dear auntie. Thank you for the bunny pajamas. They are cool. Love Sam.”
But this is not what the Bible means by thanksgiving.
Look at it instead this way – in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve everything they could possibly imagine or want. They were rich beyond compare. And they fell for Satan’s lie: “There is one thing God didn’t give you. He is stingy and mean. He won’t take care of you. He isn’t good.”
This is the default position of the human race now: “God isn’t good. He hasn’t done enough. He is a stingy taskmaster demanding sacrifices from us and if we are good enough we might be able to wring a blessing from his tight-fisted hand.”
I might suggest that this is even the way that we view thanksgiving – as if it is a service that you have to render to a harsh god to avoid punishment.
God doesn’t need our thank-you cards and our rote prayers.
Instead, he came to do away with the curse and draw us into fellowship – Jesus is the groom and we are the bride; he has given us everything we can possibly imagine and treasures that we can’t even fathom wait for us in heaven.
But greater than all of it is that the day will come when we will see him face to face and we will have no more sin and shame and alienation and we will be open and intimate and face to face with God Himself.
Thanksgiving is living with that reality in front of our eyes. It isn’t a job we do. It is a life we live – poorly, most of the time. But that doesn’t change God’s goodness or his love for us.
Imagine a long engagement:
5 “I arose to open to my beloved; And my hands dripped with myrrh, And my fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the bolt.
6 “I opened to my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him, but I did not find him; I called him, but he did not answer me.
He is gone, and you can’t find him! How your soul longs for his touch and your mouth longs for his kisses! But he is gone.
“Gone away from me. Gone away from me. Life is long, my love is gone away from me” (Ray Lamontagne)
And then he returns. He takes you up in his arms and embraces you. You shout and sing for joy. Your soul is so full it is bursting!
Do you want to know what thanksgiving is? Read the Song of Songs. It is falling into the embrace of the One who loves you and gave himself for you.
So it isn’t like writing an obligatory thank you card to a rather clueless aunt. It is a joyful embrace of love!
This changes everything, doesn’t it?
Today, we are the separated lovers longing for the fulfillment of everything, longing for the marriage supper.
This is what we sigh for and wait for. Thanksgiving is living life waiting for the embrace of your groom, your lover, your friend.
3 responses to “How to be thankful”
I find God is a much better Husband than my heartless ex, so easy to be grateful in many ways. My little space is filled with colour and joy, and safety, so I’m very grateful. He had told me to leave many years before I could understand that He had a plan from Moses time to protect women. Thank you David Instone Brewer for his work.
Exodus 20;2 and 19:4 a applicable to me.
“I am the Lord your God who bought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”
“You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles wings and bought you to me.”
Ps: love you record heading-it reminds me of my grandparents phonogram, listening to Harry Belafonte in the Christmas holidays
I find that looking at how I view thankfulness from others (towards me) has given me a miniscule glimpse of how I try to view my own true thankfulness to the Lord.
No, I don’t want to be thanked in order to be placated, or pleased “enough” or else I will punish them, or withdraw blessings from them. I don’t really like anyone to be “forced” to write thank you notes or messages.
Giving, being given to and giving thanks (wherever and however it is applicable) should never be or become a means of control, a source of empowering and disempowering, as a means to an end. It takes the joy of giving, the joy of receiving, when meanness and manipulation are allowed to muddy the waters.
But it DOES mean something when someone just says “thank you” and I say “your welcome, and thank you for that.” It doesn’t take much time, but it means so much over time.
That is one of my main fears. I worry that I am offending Him by not counting my blessings, not counting the many others that are in need of blessings, and not mindful that He gives and takes away. He served me on the cross, serves me still and I do not honor His services properly. He did so much and I don’t make time to say “thank you,” at least not enough, and am I being sincere enough as well? What if He is losing patience with me for not patiently taking the time to thank Him?
I worry that I am treating this more as a formality, a sincere one to be sure, but treating it as a real reflection of our real fellowship.
Well, these words helped: “Thanksgiving is living with that reality in front of our eyes. It isn’t a job we do. It is a life we live – poorly, most of the time. But that doesn’t change God’s goodness or his love for us.”
Not only does perfect love cast out fear, but fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. If I fear that a lack of thankfulness might cause His love to withdraw from me, or bring down a whip that is constantly dangling over my head,
That means that a surplus of thankfulness might ensure that His love is NOT withdrawn from me, and will pull up a whip that is still constantly dangling over my head, just further away from me.
No matter how much or how often I worry about being or not being thankful, that just doesn’t sound right at all. Doesn’t sound like Him at all. It is still a struggle to be sure, but I think keeping that in mind is a good start!
Best description of praise ever… makes me want to praise more!