What is the key to being thankful? Let me first tell you what it is not.
- It is not counting your blessings.
- It is not reviewing how much worse it could be.
- It is not wishing for this time of your life to be over.
- It is not pretending life is better than it really is.
- It is not something we do.
Let me tell you what being thankful is.
- It is knowing you have very little to do with the blessings you have.
- It is appreciating right where you are.
- It is living in the present moment.
- It is being truthful about your circumstances.
- It is a product of a godly attitude.
This last bullet point is the key to all the other qualities of living out thankfulness. Thankfulness is a product of an internal reality; thankfulness is a result of divine contentment. Thankfulness is a product of a godly attitude. Conversely, a lack of contentment inevitably results in a non-thankful heart or a thankful heart that has to be made temporarily thankful, but will never stay that way.
The apostle Paul gives us some insight in how to cultivate contentment in Philippians 4:4-13. You can segment this passage into 3 sections: Verses 4-7 How the peace of God impacts the inward life, Verses 8-9 How the peace of God impacts the outward life, Verses 10-13 A personal example of the peace of God from Paul’s life. The goal of these verses is to be able to describe ourselves the way Paul describes himself in vs. 9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things”.
Wow – can you imagine going up to someone and saying, “See me! See how I run my life? You should do it the same way.” Most would not be so bold and most of us would think our lives are unworthy to be copied. Realize, Paul is NOT saying he is perfect. But he IS saying he has learned how to be content in all situations.
And in our families, if you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle…you get the picture…do you not want to live a life that inspires those around you to seek God and live for Him too? Do we all not want to speak truth and live it in such a way that we are a living role model? I know I do! I hope those closest to me would say, “I love being with her! I see her satisfaction in Christ and her desire to pursue Him above all else because it overflows in her life; it’s just who she is that is so great to be with!” I want others to know I am content in my life, not due to circumstances, but due to Christ and I want to persuade them of this because of my conviction that He indeed is my contentment.
If you study the theological idea of contentment, you find the scripture writers are referring to a permanent state of mind, an inward satisfaction with what one has and a lack of care because of that satisfaction. I think we can find the human yearning to possess contentment and what it is in both secular and sacred musings. I resonate with Meryl Streep’s character in the 1998 movie, One True Thing, when she says, “It is so much easier to be happy, my love; it’s so much easier to choose to love the things that you have – and you have so much – instead of always yearning for what you’re missing or what it is you’re imagining you’re missing.” My Christian interpretation of this line is: Life is easier when we quit fighting its circumstances and instead rest in Him who will help us navigate them. Her character is describing contentment even as she battles a challenging marriage and cancer.
Do we want to be truly thankful no matter what the circumstances? Then we must allow God to divinely fill us with contentment. Contentment will inevitably result in expressions of thankfulness which appear generously in our prayers, our conversations and our choices. We will know we are content when we are naturally, without pressure or thought, living thankfully.
For more study in Divine Contentment, I recommend to you “The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11” by Thomas Watson, a Puritan pastor from the 19th century. This artfully worded tome presents how we can sabotage our contentment as well as promote the excellent condition of contentment.
Dear Reader, I encourage you to join me as I ask God to work in me through His Holy Spirit to appoint within me an abundance of contentment in which I am satisfied in Him and thus able to indeed participate wholly and with holiness in a Happy Thanksgiving.
Until next time, may your teachable moments cultivate divine contentment and may divine contentment produce a thankfulness, which cannot be contained, but pours out of you to bless those you love. Thankful for you – truly! Elizabeth