Fear drives out gratitude by keeping us focused on challenges rather than God’s provision. If we allow fear of the perilous present or the frightening future to keep us from a holy moment of gratitude, then we will spend our lives traveling from one dreadful event to another. In fact, there are many scriptures admonishing us to be thankful in the midst of struggle.
The first Thanksgiving celebration in the United States happened because unlikely neighbors shared a meal in gratitude for an abundant harvest. But their struggles were only just beginning. There was still a very difficult winter ahead. Many would die. Although tough times were definitely looming ahead, both pilgrim and Native American took a moment to embrace those things for which they could be grateful.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name" (Psalm 100:4). Thanksgiving is the key that unlocks the door to His Presence. Our lives and our homes more accurately reflect God's love when we practice gratitude in our daily interactions. In His Presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and, as Nehemiah reminds us, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Spending time in His Presence strengthens us. It makes us stronger than we were before.
CS Lewis once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world, and the hope of our eternal country.” Centuries earlier, James wrote, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3 NIV).
It seems unreasonable to ask us to count it as joy our trials and tribulations! But in doing so, we are strengthened with His mighty power. Just as thanksgiving is a key to His Presence, being in His Presence results in joy. And that joy gives us strength!
In truth, we can count it joy only because He works all things for our good anyway (Romans 8:28). This is why we can give thanks for everything. No matter what the world or the Enemy throws at us, we can have the confidence that our Father is going to work it out so that it benefits us!
Ephesians 5:20 (NLT) And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Recently, I was watching the cooking show contest, Cutthroat Kitchen. This show encourages each contestant to jeopardize their fellow competitors’ creations by stealing ingredients or cooking utensils. Many of the wiser contestants actually thank their troublemakers, denying their thief satisfaction by refusing to let the cutthroat difficulty upset them and rather focusing on how they can restrategize and overcome the obstacle they have been given. Sometimes the trial forces a creativity that the chef would not have thought of without the trial. In essence, what their enemy meant for evil, they have allowed to become a gift.
There is perhaps no better Bible character to exemplify this than that of Joseph in Genesis 50. As a young man, Joseph had a lofty dream about his future. In his youth he shared this dream with his brothers who hated him for it. In the span of a couple of decades Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave, accused of having an affair with his bosses’ wife, thrown in prison and forgotten by a benefactor. However, Joseph continued to trust God and overcome obstacles. In one day, because of his diligence, he went from prison to palace. Years later, when he was reunited with his brothers, he said this, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Philippians 4:6 (ESV) commands, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
The verse begins by directing the reader not to be anxious. This instruction would be unnecessary if the reader’s life was carefree. God wants us to make requests, but always with an attitude of gratitude.
In the end, thanksgiving is a source of strength. It encourages us to endure to the end. It also brings peace as verse seven goes on to say, Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Fear drives out gratitude by keeping us focused on the challenges rather than God’s provision. Are you short on joy? Do you lack peace? Chances are you are also low on gratitude. Unleash joy and peace like never before by purposing in your heart to be grateful in every circumstance.