My Thanksgiving blog post is coming a little early this year, as lately God has been teaching me about being thankful. 🙂 I can say so far, spending this school year in France, I am very genuinely thankful. I can’t go a day without praising the Lord for our sweet cat, the beautiful weather, precious time with my family before heading to college, and the sweet friends I have been able to reconnect with and make. This is an attitude that I am not totally accustomed to, and I wondered why I feel this way here and not all the time while I was working hard in high school.
There was a time in my life when Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” truly convicted me. While I would complain about homework or having no down time, I realized that put the focus on myself, and it was a very selfish attitude. If I looked for things to be thankful for, that put the focus on God and switched my attitude to one in which I had no room for complaining.
Ding, ding, ding! Focusing on God was the difference. Focusing on God is why I feel so much more thankful here than I did in the middle of band and classes and homework and work and more classes and more band. Here, in a new environment where I can do nothing but trust the Lord and rely on him, my senses are heightened to what God is doing, and I am much more thankful.
The fact of the matter is, God is no more present here than he is in my hometown of Forney, Texas. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises us that while we are working to make disciples, he is with us “always, to the very end of the age.” While he is shining through me in all of my activities here, he is with me and while he was shining through me at school or band practice, he was with me. At that time, I simply wasn’t looking for Him.
The idea of “looking for God” brings up something that I remember from many youth ministry retreats. Every night, we would be encouraged to complete an “Ignatian Examen.” Upon further research, I learned there are several versions, but we simply journaled our answers to three questions – Where did I see God today? Where did I miss God today? What can I do better tomorrow in seeking God? When I completed these every night, I was amazed at how much I saw God working throughout the day. In turn, I had so very much to be thankful for.
I feel like thankfulness can go two ways. Sometimes you work to be thankful, and therefore see God more. Other times, you seek God and therefore have so many reasons to be thankful. In any case, thankfulness is imperative in the life of a Christian because it draws us closer to God. It acknowledges that we are in desperate need of him and would have nothing without him. That is the number one thing to be thankful for – God’s presence in our lives.
Psalm 146 showed up in a study on prayer I am doing by Cynthia Heald. I love the attitude of thankfulness that the Psalmist has, and I want to have the same in my life.
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea, and everything in them — he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the wasps of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.
This Psalm reminded me of a song by Bethel Music. Here are some of the lyrics:
And all my life you have been faithful
And all my life you have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
Lastly, I would like to share some quotes about thankfulness that really resonated with me.
“Praise and thanksgiving do not radically change my circumstances. They radically alter my viewpoint. Praise and thanksgiving bring me back into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures evermore.” – Jennifer Kennedy Dean
“We need to discover all over again that worship is natural to the Christian, as it was to the godly Israelites who wrote the psalms, and that the habit of celebrating the greatness and graciousness of God yields an endless flow of thankfulness, joy, and zeal.” – J.I. Packer
I praise the Lord for teaching me about thankfulness and instilling that attitude in me anew every day. May I continue to look for him and see the many, many ways he blesses us. May I always remember that his presence is the most important thing in my life and the greatest thing I have to be thankful for.