John Piper says, “Gratitude leaves no room for sin, because it comes out of humility, the opposite of sin. And for sin to flourish it must be dripping with pride.”
Happy people celebrate their conversion not just once, but over and over. They are profoundly grateful for what God has done for them.
In the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, when the younger brother returns home to much rejoicing, the older brother questions his father’s actions. The older brother is full of complaints, revealing his proud, ungrateful heart. In the same way, whenever we believe that our heavenly Father is mismanaging our lives and treating others better, we’re demonstrating arrogance. Humility fosters happiness; pride undermines it.
The older brother was as unhappy in his self-righteousness as the younger brother had been in his immorality. But because the prodigal repented and welcomed his father’s grace, he was now forgiven, restored, and happy. Yet the older brother, offended by grace and poisoned by ingratitude, remained unhappy.
Bible teacher M. R. DeHaan (1891–1965) said,
The most cheerful people I have met, with few exceptions, have been those who had the least sunshine and the most pain and suffering in their lives. The most grateful people I have met were not those who had traveled a pathway of roses all their lives through, but those who were confined, because of circumstances, to their homes, often to their beds, and had learned to depend upon God as only such Christians know how to do. The “gripers” are usually, I have observed, those who enjoy excellent health. The complainers are those who have the least to complain about.
Pride is the master sin, and it’s manifested in our complaints. Scripture calls upon us to grow in thankfulness:
When I came to faith in Christ, my skeptical father said, “You’ll get over it.” It has now been over forty-five years, and I’m grateful I’ve never gotten over it—it has been a daily source of happiness.
When my prodigal dad, cancer-ridden and desperate at age eighty-five, surrendered his life to Christ, I celebrated his conversion. I still rejoice every time this moment comes to mind. If I find myself wishing my dad had come to my ball games and taken me fishing and said “I love you” when I was a kid, I choose instead to be grateful for the good things about him. I thank God for using him in my life decades before he came to Jesus. My father sometimes failed me; such is life under the Curse. But my Father God has never failed me, even when I don’t understand His plan.
God, eternity won’t be long enough to thank you for all you’ve given us and all you will give us in the ages to come. May we not wait until we see you for our every breath to be filled with gratitude for the saving work of Jesus . . . along with every secondary gift you give us. May our hearts overflow with gratitude to you this Thanksgiving, and each day!
For more on gratitude and its role in the Christian's life, see Randy's book Happiness.