The Joy and Happiness of Giving Thanks in Every Circumstance
Before I get to today’s blog, I’d like to encourage you to listen to this recent interview I did with Susie Larson on her program Live the Promise. We had a great discussion about happiness and what God’s Word says about our true circumstances in Him! Those circumstances are well worth contemplating and praising God for this Thanksgiving week.
I heard a story of someone who asked a man why he was so happy. The man picked up a binder filled with hundreds of handwritten pages and explained, “Every time someone does something kind for me, I write it in this book. And every time I feel very good about something, I write it in this book.”
The questioner said, “I wish I could be as happy as you.” “If you kept a book like this, you would be.”
“But the book is so big . . . I haven’t had many kind things done for me, and I haven’t felt good very often.”
“I might have thought that too, if I hadn’t recorded them all. I’ve learned to see and remember and be grateful for kindness and happiness when they come. Try it. Every time you doubt, read your entries and you’ll see all you have to be grateful for.”
Guerric (1070–1157), the Abbot of Igny, wrote, “O happiness of these times! O unhappiness of these times! Is it not happiness, when there is such plenitude of grace, and of all good things? Is it not unhappiness, when there is so much ingratitude of those that are redeemed?”[i]
The same is true of any time in history. Happiness and unhappiness are in direct proportion to gratitude and ingratitude.
Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Being Spirit-controlled is inseparable from giving thanks in everything.
Whether we find ourselves having reason to celebrate or to mourn, there’s never a time not to express our gratitude to God. Psalm 140:13 declares, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name.” Giving thanks is what God’s people do.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”[ii] If we’re not falling over ourselves giving thanks to God, we’re not seeing God’s grandeur, which brings the light of hope and happiness to a fallen world.
The Curse cast a shadow over happiness; heartfelt gratitude to God is a light that cuts through the shadow. Rather than enjoying the happiness of the moment, we tend to start searching for something to make us still happier, poisoning even our happy times.
Ann Voskamp writes,
As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning—now; wherever, meaning—here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be—unbelievably—possible![iii]
While it may seem hard to “make ourselves happy,” it’s not hard to choose to give thanks, which invariably kindles happiness. We can always list things we’re grateful for and recite them to God. We can share them with friends and loved ones, including our children, grandchildren, or other relatives. No matter how difficult our circumstances, the happiness that comes with thanksgiving is always within our reach.
Try it and see! Voskamp says, “No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. Any amount of grateful joy changes the present.”[iv] Even if the worst suffering of our lives still lies ahead of us, our loving God assures us it will be for only a short time. Then, either at Christ’s return or at our death, our suffering will end forever. This eternal perspective—the constant awareness that we aren’t living primarily for the here and now but rather for the world to come—is something we desperately need. That’s why Scottish evangelist Duncan Matheson (1824–1869) prayed, “Lord, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs.”[v]
As God’s children, we should gratefully remind ourselves that our happiness is limited in this life but unlimited in the life to come. A “normal day” as resurrected people on the New Earth will be incredibly better than the best day we’ve ever experienced here.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “The person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mindset and lifestyle can view anything—anything!—through the eyes of thankfulness. The whole world looks different when we do.”[vi]
Once we experience thanksgiving as our default condition, we’ll find it’s inseparable from our happiness, and we’ll never want to go back to the barren wasteland of ingratitude. We will stop asking God, “Why have you done this to me?” and instead, looking at Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, we will ask God, “Why have you done this for me?”
May you and those you love have a happy, Christ-centered, full-of-gratitude Thanksgiving!
[i] Guerric of Igny, Mediæval Preachers and Mediæval Preaching: A Series of Extracts, Translated from the Sermons of the Middle Ages, Chronologically Arranged, ed. J. M. Neal (London: J. Masters, 1856), 152.
[ii] Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur” and Other Poems (New York: Dover, 1995), 15.
[iii] Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, 33.
[iv] Ann Voskamp, Twitter post, July 14, 2014, 4:39 a.m., http://twitter.com/AnnVoskamp.
[v] Duncan Matheson, as quoted in C. R. Hurditch, ed., Footsteps of Truth, vol. 1 (London: J. F. Shaw, 1883), 393.
[vi] DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude, 62.