“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” -2 Corinthians 4:15
When you wake up, what’s the first thing you think of?
Is it a list of what needs to be done that day?
Is it a desire to hit the snooze button one more time?
Is it a feeling of anxiety over a situation or circumstance?
Or is it simply a decision of what’s for breakfast?
For me, I find my mind wanders all too quickly to what I have to do. I focus on getting going and making sure stuff gets done. The to-do list is waiting, right? If I’m not careful, I can easily let my day get carried away without my heart and mind settling into a place of solitude. I need my mind and heart, really, my whole being, to be directed or reminded of its purpose and meaning. This is what spurs me on to achieve each day.
How often do we wake up and have thankfulness on our minds?
I find that if I reach for thankfulness each morning, it allows me to have an attitude of thankfulness the entire day through. Which of course, requires that I stop and BE before I set out to DO. This sets me on the right path. I know for so many people, this is an extremely difficult step to take for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s a lack of time or time management, not knowing where to start in the pursuit of thankfulness, or a circumstance that directs you away from being thankful. Whatever the reason, people find it difficult to slow down and point their hearts in a proper direction before running off to the day’s necessities.
This time of year, we are more naturally drawn to the idea of thankfulness, which is wonderful and helpful on many levels…but if we let it stay there only, we will never achieve a consistent attitude or spirit of thankfulness. As followers of Jesus, we would do well to pursue a heart posture of thankfulness each day. We certainly have the reason for a deep-seated thankfulness in every breath we take.
How do we get there? I offer two simple reflections to consider each day, that as followers of Jesus will help us start each day with our hearts and minds in thankfulness. Two simple reflections: one inward reflection for life and one outward reflection for the Gospel.
1. Life is short.
When you wake up each day understanding that life is a gift, and that each moment you get to experience is never a guarantee, your outlook changes. I’ve attended enough funerals to remind me of this. We don’t have forever to live this life, and how you spend it matters.
You won’t get that moment back with your kids where you ran around the house as an imaginary monster, chasing the kids in their pajamas, culminating in tickling and laughter.
You won’t get that moment back when you shared a deep cry with someone over a painful situation.
You won’t get that moment back when you hiked to the edge of a forest overlooking the expanse of beauty and majesty of creation and realized how small you were.
You won’t get that moment back you chose to spend the day helping others instead of yourself with a smile and an embrace as your only reward.
Be thankful for the time you have; spend every moment of it in thankful expression.
When life doesn’t go your way, when difficulties arise, or when anger and tension feel heavy, recognize that life is too short to allow anything to take you away from thankfulness. Nothing puts your situation in perspective like thankfulness. I don’t want to over-simplify life’s difficulties or the hurt and pain it can bring, but I know that every time I’ve weighed any difficult situation I’ve been in against thankfulness in understanding that life is short, it has always brought about the attitude change I’ve needed to push through. Life is too short to have anything less than an everyday attitude of thankfulness.
2. Life is precious.
This week I had to attend a funeral for some friends who had their baby pass away 45 short minutes after birth. Finding thankfulness in that situation seems almost impossible. Yet they were able to find faith and even express thankfulness for the time that they did have with their baby girl.
We recognize that life is precious. Every person matters to God and we should hold the same outlook. Thankfulness is tied directly to the Gospel. Consider Paul’s words to the community in Corinth:
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15
This expression comes at the end of an encouragement of the promise of life in Jesus Christ despite difficulties and hardships as we speak out about the Gospel. Our lives speak to those around us, as much as our words do. How we respond to situations can be an opportunity for people to see Christ in us. We are compelled to share the Gospel because life is precious and people need to know Jesus. Paul states that as God’s grace reaches more and more people, that thanksgiving also grows greater in recognition of that grace. As one commentator puts it: “As God’s gracious invitation in the gospel extends to more and more people, the thanksgiving offered by the growing congregation of believers enhances God’s reputation in the surrounding community.” God becomes known in our thankfulness.
An attitude of thankfulness is a way we can show God’s mercy and grace to the world around us, embedded in our lives each day. As followers of Jesus, thankfulness FOR life itself and the life we have in Christ should always be in our hearts. The cross compels us towards thanksgiving, and that will always be bigger than our fears, worries, doubts, hurts, and hang-ups. It’s always bigger than a hard day, a rough conversation, disappointing news, or a seemingly impossible situation.
Thankfulness can be a reality each and every day.
When you wake up tomorrow, set your heart on thankfulness by remembering that life is short, that life is precious, and that the Gospel is continually bringing more and more thankfulness to our lives.