There are lots of reasons to feel ungrateful. Of course these reasons are all bad ones, but that never seems to matter when self-pity comes calling. In contrast, Thessalonians tells us that it is God’s will that we be thankful. So, Christian you have a choice to make – trust God or your own assessment of your circumstances. Gratitude is to identify you as a person. For this to occur, at least three truths must frame your understanding of gratitude:
First truth: gratitude is based upon unchanging truth, not changing circumstances.
God’s goodness to you is never in doubt. Ephesians 1:7-8 says God has lavished his riches upon you. This blessing is certain. Redemption belongs to you as God’s child and you will never lose it. No circumstance can change this certain reality – so no circumstance should diminish your gratitude for God’s grace. Do not allow uncertain and changing circumstances to diminish the joy of God’s faithfulness to you.
Second truth: gratitude is based upon commitment, not the performance of others.
The gospel is all about God’s commitment to you. God works all things for the good of those who love him. The Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance (Eph. 1:14). By implication, the gospel means that you don’t have to evaluate the performance of others to determine whether or not you can be thankful. Think about it. How often does discouragement come from what you view as the failed performances of others; If only my wife were not so demanding, if only my husband were not so thick-headed, if only my kids were not so selfish, if only, if only…
God’s will for you is gratitude. The more you focus on the performance of others, the less you will be dominated by gratitude.
Third truth: gratitude is based upon mercy, not expectations.
The story of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18:23-35 demonstrates what happens when you lose sight of the mercy of God. When this happens you will be more critical when those around you do not meet your expectations. You will be dominated by discouragement and even bitterness, instead of mercy and compassion. God extends mercy and compassion to you even when you fall far short of his commands. Mercy is not something you extend because someone has pleased you. Mercy is unmerited favor. Yet, when your expectations are not met, there is the natural drive of the flesh to be hurt and to withdraw, then gratitude is nowhere to be found. Gratitude should flow from the mercy extended to you when others struggle and fail. The struggles of those closest to you are God-given opportunities to show kindness, compassion and mercy.
Gratitude is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. You can be thankful for all that God has given you, including the struggles of those you love most.
Self-pity anticipates discouragement. Gratitude anticipates eternity. Your choice.