Thankfulness in adulthood and childhood

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By Al Earley

Pastor Bob Russell writes in his book Jesus, Lord of Your Personality, that having a lot doesn’t tend to produce a grateful spirit.

“Have you had a taste of the best this world has to offer? You went to Hawaii once on vacation, so now it’s harder for you to enjoy the state park. You’ve eaten a steak at Ruth Chris, so it’s harder to be thankful for a meal at Ponderosa. You’ve driven a Jaguar, so now you can’t be as content with your used Chevrolet. You’ve cheered for a national champion, so now it’s difficult to be grateful when your team has a good season but doesn’t take home the title. Generally speaking, the more we have, the less grateful we are. It should be the opposite; the more we have, the more thankful we should be. But it usually doesn’t work that way, does it?”

A wise man prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

“It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can give thanks to God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!” (Howard Publishing Co., 2002).

The Bible gives the perfect antidote for our ability to become unthankful while we live in the land of plenty. In I Thessalonians 5:18 we read, “give thanks (to God) in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note Paul tells us to learn to be thankful in ALL circumstances, the good as well as the bad. This is not easy. I have found that the only way to do this is to make a habit of counting your blessings every day. I have literally written down a list of the blessings showered down upon me in the following areas of my life: faith, family, material possessions, health, talents, personality traits and being an American citizen.

For those of you who have children or grandchildren, in the summertime you probably hear the dreaded, “I’m bored.” We hear those words and we are astounded. It is usually about an hour after returning from an exciting evening at a restaurant designed for kids or a day at the park or a week at camp or any number of the hundreds of intellectually and physically stimulating activities we line up for their summer. We think they should be grateful for all the activities we give them and then there is the mountain of toys they could entertain themselves with. Instead they want more: more activities, more toys, more stuff.

Two of the smartest things I told my kids while they were growing up was, “I am not responsible for entertaining you,” and “I can think of some wonderful chores to do to fill your bored time.” Suddenly they didn’t mind being bored and being bored forced them to find ways to entertain themselves. This was a life skill that has gone with them throughout their lives and it helped them become more thankful with what they had rather than complaining about what they wanted. They also rarely complained about being bored. Cleaning toilets and vacuuming will bring an amazing attitude adjustment to a bored child.

Do you suffer from ungratefulness due to too many blessings? What do you do to help you be thankful in all things? Have you ever made a list of the dozens of blessings that God showers down upon you every day? What is keeping you from making your list today? Do you try to satisfy all of your kid’s entertainment and material needs? Is that producing thankful kids?

I know from firsthand experience that ungratefulness can take the joy out of life and it is easy to be ungrateful even in our amazing country with all its bounty. Don’t be one of those ungrateful ones

Decide to be thankful in everything, and see how God will change your life.

Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see www.lagrangepres.com.