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How thankfulness brings peace

When we were children, our parents taught us that “please” and “thank you” were magic words. “Pass the mashed potatoes” was not effective. “Please pass the mashed potatoes” was. We were already learning how to navigate a daunting world. 

We didn’t even have to feel it particularly. The two large bodies who were the lifelines to all our needs and wants were pleased enough if we just mouthed the formulae. Sure, it was better if it came from the heart. But they would settle for “thank you” under a furrowed brow because it was a start from barbarism to civilization and the ticket to future social acceptability, which would eventually get us a job and a spouse.

Then we became Christians at some point and got a more perfect Parent. The earthly ones had “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them” (Hebrews 12:10), but this heavenly One “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8) and does not give a stone if you ask for bread (Matthew 7:9).

But He reserves the right to say what’s “bread.” It took 15 years to come around, but now I’m relieved that Ronnie dumped me. Believe me, you don’t want all your prayers answered in the affirmative. Say thank you for “Nos” too.

“Thank you” is your doorway into right focus, which is to say, reality.

Living life teaches you that God knows real bread from display case fake bread, so you start to trust Him. Corrie ten Boom loathed the flea infestation in the barracks the Nazis put her in, but the Lord spoke to sister Betsie: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Corrie balked, but soon saw God’s plan when the guards left their barracks alone—because of the little parasites.

Baruch got a trip to the woodshed for feeling sorry for himself during the Jerusalem conquest of 597 B.C. Feeling sorry for yourself is the opposite of saying thank you. God rebuked Jeremiah’s scribe: You think you feel bad? I’m in the process of tearing down the nation of Israel, which I have spent centuries building. You at least get to keep your life (Jeremiah 45:1-5).

It’s all about focus, isn’t it?

“Thank you” is your doorway into right focus, which is to say, into reality. You remember what matters and who’s in control. Lack of “thank you” leads to a bestial mind: “They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking. … God gave them up to a debased mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:21, 28).

When you “enter his gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4) you find peace because “thank you” really is a magic word. Amy Coney Barrett showed how gratitude works on the day she got the double-barreled news of her pregnancy and an orphaned Haitian child. She went out to think in the university cemetery and consoled herself with “Life is hard. But at least it’s short.”

You see? There is always something to say thank you for, even if it’s that this will all end soon. 

“Thank you” is the cure for “coveting one’s neighbor,” that fetid wellspring of socialism and communism. There is always someone better off and worse off than you (Matthew 26:11). I cannot overstate the mileage I get out of contemplating heaven. If I thought it all ends when I die, I would run off to Sweden and Paris—or be eaten alive feeling gypped of it.

Always remember to thank God when He finds your lost keys and cell phone that you ransacked the house for. Speaking of her own “thank you” resolution, Anne Lamott writes: “I have to create the habit, just as I had to do with daily writing, and flossing” (Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers). 

Jesus healed 10 lepers, and only one returned to thank Him. Which one do you think lived with more joy?  

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  • AlanE
    Posted: Sat, 11/28/2020 09:16 pm

    This is timely. Thank you.