Giving Thanks (not for, but) in Everything
- Friday, November 21, 2008
The tooth fairy visited our house last night, for the gazillionth time. Okay, so it's been only seven. Still, each time my son grins at me with a new gap between his teeth, I wonder what on earth that original "tooth fairy" was thinking to offer cash in exchange for a jagged-edged, vaguely nauseating DNA sample. I just don't get it.
Typically, my son leaves his offering in a pocket sewn into a tiny pillow made just for the occasion. This time around—and I have it on good authority that it has never happened before—the tooth fairy discovered a note alongside the pillow.
"Read after get tooth… How much? _____? Please 20 cents? Please?? THANK YOU!!!!"
My husband and I had a good chuckle at his low-ball plea. Twenty cents? Our son raked in five bucks for his first tooth when he lost it at Grandma’s house (her tooth fairy has deeper pockets). The other teeth had been averaging 50 cents to a dollar. But he’s only eight, so his concept of money might be skewed.
The more I reflected on the note, the more I focused on the ending. "Thank you!" He thought to include a "thank you" even before he knew the amount he would receive. Sure, he mentioned what he hoped to get, but he didn't have any guarantees.
Good manners? Maybe. I think it was more of an expectant gratitude, an attitude that said "I don't know what I'll get, but any amount is more than I had before. It will be a gift, and I'm grateful for whatever I'm given."
There's nothing like the words of a child to smite a mother's hard heart. How often do I fail to give thanks until after I’ve been presented the gift? After the fact I already know what loot I’ve taken home, what blessings I’ve received, what kind words have been spoken about me. It’s easy to say "thank you" to all that. I have what I asked for, got what I wanted, enjoyed what makes me feel good.
And while there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for gifts given, God's Word shows us a more excellent way:
"Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Yikes! "In everything"? Give thanks in hard times? When my kids are sick, when my husband's job is in danger, when our bottom line seems to be bottoming out? Be thankful during holidays that bring sorrow to my widowed mother's eyes? Be thankful in my prayers even before I know the answers to them? This is God's will for me?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul elaborates: "Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).
An attitude of gratitude should envelop our prayers and petitions, which the Lord expects us to bring to Him.
Don't skip the prepositions here — "in everything give thanks"… "with thanksgiving…" — what we don't see is "be thankful for everything." The difference is profound. While we may never be grateful for certain painful experiences, we can still be grateful during them. We can still pray with a thankful heart.
Why? Because our hope is not in the potential answers to our prayers. Our hope is in the God to whom we pray! In Him we trust. He has given us life itself — freedom, salvation, grace, mercy. He chose us to be his children. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3). Who can't be thankful for that?
Thanks and hope work in tandem. We wait expectantly, with hope, believing that He will keep His promises to see us through the hard times, to provide all we need, to make us more like Him. We are grateful to love and be loved by the God of the universe, our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Father, Comforter, Savior.
This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my son’s example. He was thrilled with the 50 cents he found on his little pillow. "It's more than I asked for!" he said, beaming his gap-toothed grin the next morning.
To an even greater degree, our Lord delights to give us more than we could ever ask or imagine. So pray. Even if you've asked him for the same thing a gazillion times, keep seeking His face. And don't forget to give thanks to Him in everything.
Kelley Mathews, Th.M. (Dallas Theological Seminary), married and blessed with three young children, spends her spare time freelancing as a writer and editor. She served several years as the Women’s Ministry Director at Rowlett Bible Fellowship. Her newest book release is Mixed Ministry: Working Together as Brothers and Sisters in an Oversexed Culture, which can be found on her web site www.newdoors.info.
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