As I handed my child something I stood there waiting. And waiting. Finally, I prompted the child...say "Thank You"! Do you know how many times we have taught our children how to use their manners? And yet they let those manners slip time after time.
And you know what? So do I.
Just as our children must be taught, or trained, in using good manners, so must we. We are not born from the womb thanking the doctor for catching us or our mothers for the hard work they've just accomplished. Manners, along with many other skills, must be taught and learned and applied. And training takes patience, time, and practice.
Training also hurts. People who work out, who train, at the gym have to endure some pain before they reach their strengthening goals. Disciplining our children entails training them in obedience, and oftentimes that hurts! How do we train in thankfulness, though?
When someone gives us something, does it hurt us to say thank you? Well, usually not, but sometimes it does. It might hurt our pride, for instance. Maybe we are humbled by their kindness but we don't want to show it. Or maybe we are embarrassed and too proud to accept their kind gesture.
Ultimately, though, I think our lack of thankfulness can show that our hearts are weak in this area. They need training.
Like training in a gym, training in thankfulness involves some critical steps:
- Get the gear. This is the 'equipment' for thanks-training. Buying some beautiful notecards to send to people is a great place to begin.
- Exercise. Use those muscles! As we teach our children when to use their manners, and as we give them practice using them, they will develop patterns, like muscle memory, so thankfulness becomes more natural. So, practice practice practice thankfulness.
- Work through the brick wall. People hit brick walls sometimes when they're in an exercise routine. I think we hit brick walls with thanksgiving too. The verse above is God's truth and in it He reminds us that thankfulness extends beyond the kind gift someone gives us. It includes everything. So, when you hit a brick wall (your husband lost his job), push through by doing what you know you need to: give thanks. When another brick wall comes (health crisis), push through, give thanks. Boom--another wall (trial, hardship, suffering, you name it). Give Thanks. We can push through, not because we're so strong, but because our God, who is sovereign over all these things, is so good and strong.
- Remind yourself of the goal. Runners visualize the end of the race. Keeping your eyes ahead will motivate you to press through the hard here-and-now. One of the primary goals of a Christ-follower is to do the Father's will. Jesus demonstrated this perfectly for us and as we follow Him, we never have to spin our wheels wondering, "What exactly is God's will for my life?" Simply put, God's will for your life, for my life, is to give thanks in everything.
- Finally, giving thanks doesn't happen in a bubble. In the Scripture above there are two important building blocks for a thankful heart in all circumstances. One is rejoicing and the other is non-stop praying. It's hard to find time to grumble in the midst of constant praying, isn't it? When I am rejoicing with someone or praising God in worship, I don't often find myself complaining too.
And give thanks in everything.
It's a process. We must train our hearts in this work. But, when we do, we give glory to the Lord and stave off all sorts of sins that stem from ingratitude (Romans 1).