Written by Tera Michelson
God gives a clear command in Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
When all of our family and friends are gathered around a holiday meal, it is easy to give thanks to God. We feel blessed and grateful when our plates are full and our loved ones are well.
But what about when we are tired and worn? How do we give thanks when the dots don’t connect and the pennies don’t stretch? So often, our hearts and minds are filled to capacity with hurt, anger, worry and grief. How do we give thanks in this dark and harsh world that sometimes feels like it is swallowing us?
Parenting is a thankless job. Kiddos of all ages can be needy and demanding. They often make a lot of requests without offering any thanks. God can relate. Being my heavenly parent must not be easy. I am often a selfish brat, needy and demanding. I make a lot of requests and excuses. My blessings often come without taking time to give God thanks.
There’s a story about thankfulness in Luke 17:11-19 where Jesus heals ten lepers. Jesus gives life back to these ten very ill and rejected people when he makes a miracle happen and cures them. Of the ten, only one takes a moment to come to Jesus with words of thanks. The healed man was loud, the Bible says, and threw himself at Jesus’ feet in gratitude. Jesus looks around for the other nine, asking, “Hey, wait a minute, weren’t there ten of you? Where are the other nine?”
When we want our family to build habits of gratitude, we adults are the role models. We get to go first and be the example for our kids, the one in ten. Having a thankful heart requires practice. Like so many other life skills, the best way to strengthen our thankfulness muscles is to use them—regularly. It doesn’t come naturally; griping and whining are our natural human responses. Without flexing the thankfulness muscles in our brains and hearts, we can easily take our lives and loved ones for granted.
Here’s the thing: for each time I do finally come around and throw myself at the feet of Jesus with thanks, there are at least nine other of God’s blessings that go unmentioned, unrecognized and unsung.
If God feels anything like I do as a parent when my child pauses, even for just a brief moment, to toss out a quick word of thanks, I have to think that even one in ten are great odds. View the world with gratefulness, through the eyes of Jesus, finding joy and peace in the most difficult moments of your life. An attitude of gratitude roots us in a chaotic, upside-down world.
TERA MICHELSON is a writer, photographer, teacher, super-volunteer, mama and wife—not necessarily in that order. When she is not driving a carpool, you will find her baking cupcakes, walking a scruffy dog named Otto or attending a meeting at church or the local school. Tera enjoys thinking and sharing about family faith-building in a complicated world. She lives in a hilly suburb of Cincinnati, OH, with her pastor
husband and three teenaged children.