Encouragement

Of Wonder & Gratitude

The window beside my desk is open just now and the spring breeze rustles in. The soundtrack from Little Women is playing in the background and combined with the song of the birds just outside, it is a rather magical atmosphere. It’s easy to be thankful in this moment, where beauty and peace seem to swirl around me canceling the chaos and confusion of the broken world. It is in moments like these where my heart responds with glee to the command in 1 Thessalonians, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

But it was not easy last week when I was frantically reading the headlines. It was not easy when my job was canceled, several trips I’d been anticipating were delayed, and the question mark was placed on the calendar for the next time I would see my church family in person. It was not easy when my Mom got sick and was quarantined in her room for five days (just to make sure whatever she had wasn’t serious and it didn’t spread, she is better now). It was not easy last week. It will not be easy in the future. But all things considered, it should be. Because, as a Christian, I’ve been given so much. But I forget it so often. I think many of us do.

Entitlement’s darling daughter, ingratitude…

The cause of my ingratitude was rooted in something deeper. I wasn’t ungrateful because my life was hard. I had food to eat, movies to watch, children to laugh with, books to enjoy, worship music echoing through my house, and was receiving texts hourly from friends. I was ungrateful because my life wasn’t as pleasant as I wanted it to be. It wasn’t as easy as I felt like I deserved.

Entitlement is the mother of ingratitude, and is sneakier than a toddler swiping a cookie off the counter. She thrives in pleasant environments where little service is required and the it costs very little to follow the King. Her strength is cultivated by believing in the sufficiency and satisfaction of one’s own work. It is in danger when the idea of “every good and perfect gift” being from the Father who’s ways are higher than our own. Prayer stifles her growth and selfless service can be potentially lethal. But where life is pleasant, easy, and comfortable, entitlement will flourish and give birth to her darling daughter, ingratitude.

It is a false view of self that gives way to feeling entitled. We believe that we are good deep down and deserve the good things God gives us. Without realizing it, we throw the doctrine of total depravity out the window with our ungrateful perspectives. If we understand that God alone is good and we are by nature wicked than salvation alone is enough to supply an eternal source of unaltered thanksgiving. But when things get bumpy and we fail to live our lives in gratitude, we are denying with our actions two things. One, we are denying that we are utterly insufficient to save, sustain, and satisfy ourselves. Second, we are denying that God is good, His plans perfect, and His love unable to be thwarted.

If we really believed these things, our lives would bubble over with thanksgiving, regardless of our circumstances. Why? Because while we were enemies, Christ died for us and now nothing can separate us from the love He showers on us each and every moment. Only when we believe we deserve or earn any good thing He gives us do we offer ingratitude to Him when those things are taken away or withheld. (#theologymatters)

When everything was minorly difficult and uncertain last week, my response to God should’ve been one of utmost thanksgiving rather than doubting His goodness and questioning why He would give or take away the things He had. When life is difficult or painful in the coming years, my response should continuously be one of utmost thanksgiving, even in tears. If I am keeping the truth about who I was and who God is at the forefront of my mind, gratitude will be the only reasonable response. Why? Because even this does not negate the fact that Jesus died to save me and nothing can separate me from Him.

Source of eternal gratitude…

Do you realize the depth of the gift God has given you in salvation? Or has it lost it’s wonder? Here’s the simple truth that should be a source of eternal gratitude for each of us who are children of God: Jesus died to save His enemies.

The first thing we must remember to rekindle the wonder of salvation in our hearts, is that we were God’s enemies. It’s not a pleasant thought, but one of utmost importance to cultivating gratitude. Consider the villainous names that come to mind when we hear the word “enemy.” Several, real and fictional, come to mind for me. Adolf Hitler, Bloody Mary, Gnag the Nameless, Thanos, among others. These people (creatures) are or were positively despicable. The very thought of some of their wretched deeds makes my blood boil. They define “enemy.”

And we were them.

We didn’t just live with indifference to God and His love, we were against Him. We hated Him. We were just as evil and twisted as those villains we read or hear about. Perhaps, even worse. We loved our wickedness too. The darkness was our home and it’s evils our pleasure. It sounds like we were definitely entitled to something, but not a life of ease. We are by nature entitled to total destruction.

The second thing we must remember when cultivating a lost sense of wonder at our salvation is who Jesus is. He is the sinless Son of God. He merely spoke and constellations formed, waters roared, and grains of sand materialized. His power is frightening, His love even more so. Why? Because His love is what caused Him to bring Himself to His own creation, die the death of a criminal though He was without the taint of sin, and all to save His enemies. Us. To save us. To give us eternal security and life.

Would you die to make your enemy your bride? The one who hates you your child? The people who call for your crucifixion your friends?

Jesus did.

How can we respond to this wondrously astounding love with anything but gratitude? Regardless of what is going on in the world around us.

Photo by Arvid Knutsen on Pexels.com

In all circumstances, we are secure…

I won’t lie, it can be hard to hold fast to the wonder of salvation when life is hard. It is so easy to slip into the arms of entitlement and let her stroke your brow and comfort you with words of “you deserve better” or “you have a right to be upset with Him.” But entitlement breeds ingratitude, and ingratitude breeds distrust, and distrust breeds misery, and misery breeds hopelessness. So when entitlement opens her arms and invites you to come and rest awhile, walk away and go to the foot of the cross.

Sit there in the dust and remember who you were, Who saved you, and where you are now. You were His enemy, Jesus saved you, and now you are eternally safe and secure in His arms. When pandemics hit, you’re still held fast by Him. When hearts break, it’s in His arms you are carried. When questions remain unanswered, it’s in His wisdom you can hide. Nothing can separate you from Him. In all circumstances, we are safe in the very hands that were pierced for us. In all circumstances, we have a source that will never run dry of gratitude.

If your heart is beating right now like mine is, you have abundantly more to give thanks for. Not only are you eternally secure, you are living another day. You can breathe in the beauty of His creation. Ponder the glorious truths of the gospel. Pass along the hope you have in Him and lead others to the well spring of life. Anything we have is a gift of abundant kindness from God. None of it is deserved. None of it are we entitled to. None of it should produce anger if it is taken back.

So when entitlement comes knocking on your door today, because she will (social distancing doesn’t stop her unfortunately), remember all that you have been given and how utterly undeserving you are of it. The proper perspective of ourselves and God will send entitlement on her way with a frustrated stomp in her step.

In all circumstances, give thanks.

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