Ten leprous men had an encounter with Jesus and begged Him for healing. He inclined, and they were miraculously healed. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’”
This brief parable has stopped me in my tracks. All ten were healed but only one came back to give thanks, a Samaritan. A “breed” that no one liked. Jesus dictated the story with intention. He knew it would bother the Pharisees and Israelites that the only one to return to give thanks was one they both despised. Does it bother you? It should.
How often do we go about our days, our weeks, our lives, without giving thanks for what we’ve been given. Thanking God for our food at the dinner table, sure, but I’m talking about continually giving thanks for all God has given us, both physically, and circumstantially.
Stop and think: are there physical things in your life that you are thankful for? Name some. Are you thankful for the circumstances you are in right now?
In Ephesians Paul tells us that a spiritually-filled person gives thanks always and in everything. (Ephesians 5:20)
Do you do that?
Scripture calls us to always give thanks in everything – in plenty, and in want.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we probably tend to complain about not having “enough” or wishing we were in some other circumstance, rather than being thankful.
“But Beth, you don’t know my circumstances.” And you’re right, I don’t. But it shouldn’t matter.
We would all agree that giving thanks in seasons of plenty is easy – “I’m so blessed” seems to roll off our tongue more than the usual “I’m fine” or, “Things are great!”, but what about giving thanks during suffering, hardship, or even death? Do we thank God for our circumstances during ALL circumstances, or just the ones that are easy? Scripture calls us to always give thanks in everything – in plenty, and in want. And if you believe in the omniscience and goodness of God, and His sovereignty and provision over all the Earth, then you are agreeing that He is in control of, and wills your circumstances. If that is true, then for His glory He has sovereignly allowed you to be wherever you are. And because of that, God is good and is worthy to be praised and thanked during plenty and during want.
The bible calls us to praise God during each moment of every circumstance. Romans 8 says that God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and that “goodness” is our being conformed to the image of His Son. There will be many days when this doesn’t feel so good, but it is good. Because of God’s overwhelming love for you, He is using your circumstances to conform you to the image of Christ. And if we’re honest with ourselves, at the end of a good day, that’s really what we want isn’t it?
He is using your circumstances to conform you to the image of Christ
But what about at the end of a bad day? That’s definitely not what I want. At the end of a bad day, I want control. I want to curse God because of my suffering and take back the reigns, but this is where faith comes in. In those difficult circumstances where we are struggling to give thanks in our suffering, we must relinquish control and have faith. Faith that even though we don’t understand, or the pain is unbearable, or His promises are veiled by the suffering right before our eyes, we trust that the good work He has started in us, He will one day complete.
And just remember, if there ever comes a day where you can’t think of anything to be thankful for, let me give you a hint: Because you were dead, and in His overwhelming and unconditional love for you, Christ took upon God’s wrath in your place so that you could receive His righteousness and be placed in right relationship with God to be truly alive for ALL OF ETERNITY. May that simple reminder always bring us all to our knees in joy and gratitude. We have a Hope like no other – assurance of both things present, and things to come.
If you’re struggling with simply believing in His goodness and seeing the gifts He has for you today, pray for the faith you need to believe in His unwavering character. And for those of you who just need a kick in the pants here are a few things to keep in mind when you possess an ungrateful heart:
1. Start Small
Ann Voskamp wrote an amazing and profoundly poetic book entitled One Thousand Gifts, where she pens her experience giving thanks for the small things. One of my biggest takeaways from her book was this: The whole of life – even the hard – is made up of minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up….
I beg you to check it out as she teaches how to (and why to) give thanks in even the smallest of things. *Disclaimer: This is one of my favorite books of all times and I recommend it highly to anyone and everyone. I am, admitedly, a One Thousand Gifts pusher.
If I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.
2. Get Outside of Yourself
I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. Do you have any idea how blessed you really are? You were give breath today. Does that mean anything to you? You were give clothes today, you were given food today, you were given a computer or smartphone today, does that mean anything to you? Perhaps it may help you to think of someone(s) less fortunate than you. What needs do they have that you can meet for them? Human to human. Heart to heart. Soul to soul.
3. Focus on the Good
This one is particularly cheesy, but unapologetically true. Have you ever been around an eternal optimist? I’m the daughter of one. And although it can sometimes be overwhelming, it is utterly refreshing to bear witness to that kind of perspective. Tap into that and experience true joy, even in the darkest, and hardest of circumstances.
“Father, the circumstance I am in now is difficult and painful. I would not have chosen it, but You in Your love and wisdom chose it for me. You intend it for my good, and so by faith I thank You for the good You are going to do in my life through it. Help me to genuinely believe this and be able to thank You from my heart.” – Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins
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Image Credit: ProFlowers, Creative Commons