On an average day, I bounce back and forth between gratitude and ingratitude. When I find a parking spot at the grocery store, I give thanks. When my favorite flavor of Blue Bell Ice Cream is out of stock, I grumble and whine. My soul is grateful when my children rush to give me hugs and tell me about their day, then bitter when they are defiant and rebellious. I am glad when my paycheck is deposited, yet I complain when the electric bill arrives.
Left to myself and my own nature and strength, I am like a rudderless ship: tossed back and forth by my circumstances, my feelings, and my wants. If things go well or go my way, I will be grateful. If things do not go well or do not go my way, I will be ungrateful.
As long as I let my circumstances, my feelings, and my wants rule my heart and mind, I will never be able to obey the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Scripture commands us to give thanks in all circumstances. This must mean that the barrier to ever-present and ongoing gratitude is the fleshly state of looking to our circumstances, our feelings, and our wants. By “looking to” I mean “trusting in” or “hoping in.” The barrier to ever-present gratitude is believing that our circumstances, our feelings, or our wants will give us life.
If we look to our circumstances, then we will be ruled by our circumstances. If we look to our feelings, we will be ruled by our feelings. If we look to our wants, we will be ruled by our wants. As a result, our gratitude will be tossed back and forth the way waves toss a rudderless boat.
Therefore, gratitude is a fruit of faith. If we put our faith in our circumstances, our feelings, or our wants then gratitude will constantly elude us or it will be cheap and shallow. If we put our faith in or look to the Lord then unshakeable gratitude will overflow from our hearts regardless of our circumstances, feelings, or wants.
I believe people are ungrateful, joyless, bitter, envious, and angry because they are looking to things that cannot and will not satisfy. Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Psalm 115:8 declares to those who worship lifeless idols, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trustin them.”
So, if gratitude comes from looking to the Lord and trusting in him, what specifically should we look for? It is possible to think that we are looking to the Lord, but in reality, we are looking pastthe Lord; that is, looking to what he can do for us or give to us. This again makes our gratitude contingent on our circumstances, our feelings, or our wants. Beware of looking past the Lord.
To look to the Lord means that we look at him, place our hope in him, find our joy in him, and therefore we are always thankful because he never disappoints.
Psalm 7:17 explains this to us: “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.” The Psalmist gives thanks to God. Why? Notice, the reason for his gratitude is “due to his (God’s) righteousness.”
The psalmist’s hope is not set on the shifting waves of circumstances, feelings, and wants. His hope is set on the absolute rock of God’s righteousness. The psalmist looks and beholds the righteousness of his God and he sees splendor and majesty; Psalm 111:3, “Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever”
Looking to God’s righteousness is a sure means of gratitude and joy because God’s “righteousness endures forever” as opposed to all of the temporary and fleeting things of the world.
If a sports bettor knew with complete certainty that a football team would win every game, he would certainly bet a max bet on that team every week. In fact, he would be a fool if he didn’t bet on that team! Similarly, the righteousness of God, is an eternal and sure source of gratitude. We would be fools to turn to temporal sources!
Therefore, look to the Lord! Do not look past the Lord to his blessings, but to the Lord himself. Behold his splendor and majesty in his Word and give thanks in prayer for his never-ending righteousness.