Lingering Thoughts on Thankfulness
RAY DELAURIER, NC REGIONAL PASTOR
We have heard or preached on thankfulness this time of year, and we are encouraged to be more thankful to God and to others. We respond by saying, “Yes, I need to be more thankful because I often don’t have a heart of gratitude. So I will strive to do better.” That desire seems to last a few days or weeks and the attitude of gratitude returns to that prior place until next November. It seems really difficult to have a thankful disposition over a long period of time. We can’t fake it. It is very elusive. Maybe trying harder to be thankful isn’t the answer. Maybe we need another connection.
A connection I found helpful recently is from Paul’s words in Phil.4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” What is fascinating is not the idea of contentment, but that he had to “learn it.” He didn’t previously know it. Apparently it is not intuitive. Perhaps contentment has to be learned because, like many biblical truths, it is counter-intuitive.
The natural way to look at contentment is that, “I’m not content unless I get that, have that, achieve that, or become that.” We think we will be content if we add something to our lives. Yet, we strive and strive, but contentment is elusive.
Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment suggests that a Christian comes to contentment not so much by way of addition, as by the way of subtraction. This is our way to contentment, and it is a way in which the world has no skill. Therefore, it is not by adding to what we would have or we currently have or adding to our condition; but rather, by subtracting from our desires, so as to make our desires and our circumstances even and equal.
If Jesus is really sovereign King over my whole life, then He is to be ruler of my desires as well. Knowing that His divine power has given to us everything we need for life and godliness (2Pet.1:3), I already have everything I need as His gracious provision to me. Therefore, through prayer, devotion, faith and thankfulness for what I do have now, I can decrease my desires to match my God-provided circumstances. Then and only then will I learn contentment, and with that contentment cultivate a truly thankful heart each day.