“Thank you”…it’s one of the first things we’re taught to say as kids. How many times did your parents remind you to say “Thank You” as you were opening up Christmas or Birthday presents? Or when you went trick or treating, did your mom stand on the sidewalk shouting “DID YOU SAY THANK YOU?” every time you were given a piece of candy? I can’t be the only one!
This all got me thinking about expressing our thanks to God. In the Bible, we see several references that encourage us to continually live in a state of gratitude.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thes. 5:18
“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” -Eph. 5:20
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” -Psalms 118:1
But giving thanks to God isn’t always easy. Let’s be honest…it’s pretty easy to say thanks when you’re getting presents or candy or good news. But what about when you don’t get the promotion, or the relationship ends, or the Doctor has bad news? What happens to your ‘thank-yous’ then?
If you’re anything like me, my expressions of gratitude can get stuck in my throat when times are tough. I’m more inclined to say ‘WHY?’ than ‘Thank you.’
And my guess is I’m not alone.
So I want to share with you something I learned about expressing gratitude that has stuck with me. The truth is there are 3 levels of giving thanks to God…
“Thank you for…” – This is the most basic level of gratitude. Something good happens and you say, ‘Thank you, God.’ It’s just good manners! If someone hands you something, gives you change at the register, or holds a door open for you, you say ‘thanks.’ The truth is, there is always something to be thankful for. No matter what is happening around you, you can thank God for the air in your lungs and His presence, which He promises to us for all time.
“Thank you even though…” This is where it starts to get real. When things aren’t ok, are we able to still say, ‘Thank you’ ? We see this sentiment echoed in the words of King David in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me.”
Even though I didn’t get the job,
Even though I’m single,
Even though they hurt me,
…God, I thank you.
Thank you because of…” This is the last and deepest level of gratitude. This isn’t, ‘Thanks for this good thing in my life,’ or ‘Thanks, even though things aren’t going as planned.’ This last level of gratitude says, ‘Thank you because of my trials, for they are making me more like you.’ WHOA.
When was the last time you thanked God for a painful situation? And I’m not talking about once you’re through the pain and it’s in the past. I mean smack in the middle of it, can you thank God, knowing that He will work all things for our good? (Romans 8:28) And this is where our faith is developed, when even in the midst of pain, doubt, questions, and heartache, we can thank God for the good He will bring out of our trial.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I need to work on that last one. My first reaction to my trials isn’t always an attitude of gratitude.
“Lord, help us to see that we can trust you. You are worthy of our thanks even though things aren’t working out the way we thought they would. And because of these trials, we know you are working out all things for our good, making us more like your son along the way. For this, we say, ‘Thank you.’