As I grew up, I would have to say I had an easy life. My story is not filled with deceit and corruption from friends and family, but really an attitude of love and care. It is not filled with the worlds worst pains and difficulties. Some would call this fortunate. Some would call it luck. Some would call it God’s plan, which I would agree with.
Due to the very fact that I grew up in this environment, I tended to neglect thankfulness. I did not realize that I had much to be thankful for. Typically, as we are such a materialistic people, we are only thankful for the items that we possess. I was thankful for my toys, my sports equipment, my video games, the house I lived in, the car that I drove. Very little was I thankful for the parents that made it possible to have all of these possessions. Very little was I thankful for the parents that spent day in and day out working so that I would have a roof over my head and food on the table.
It was not until I began to work that I realized that I had thanks, but did not give thanks. A few years back, recently eighteen years old, a senior in high school, I worked for my dad over the winter break. Before this, I “worked” a summer job teaching children tennis. That was more fun than it was work! This new job in the factory of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Fort Smith, Arkansas, would teach me the value of thankfulness.
As the low man on the totem-pole, you tend to catch the jobs that nobody else wants to do. From picking up spilled pallets of Fanta (which is the stickiest liquid in the world), to driving the forklift through 32-degree weather (and rain), to painting doors, to sweeping up enough dust to create a new Mount Everest, I began to understand the value of work. It was in those winters and summers that I realized how difficult work can be, and I began to appreciate those that do certain jobs.
After changing oil, I appreciate those that change oil. After driving the forklift in crazy weather, I appreciate those that do so on a consistent basis. After working an internship and sitting in an office all day, I appreciate those that sit behind a desk each day.
It was also in these days that I realized the difference between having thanks and giving thanks.
Having thanks is when you realize you are thankful, but do nothing about it. It is being in a thankful state, but not acting in thankfulness. It is having an emotion, but producing no fruit from that emotion. It is when you say “Thank you,” but do not show “Thank you.”
Giving thanks is one step beyond having thanks. It is doing something about the thankful heart that you have. It is having the emotion of thankfulness and allowing that to produce thankful attitudes and actions. It is not only telling somebody “Thank you,” but showing them your thankful heart by doing something for them in return. It is not letting your parents foot the bill each time they take you out, but beginning to pick up the check when you can, showing a thankful heart for all that they have poured into you.
The Reason for Thankfulness
Our thanks, is simply a response to what He has done. If God had not done anything, there would be no reason for thanks. But, friend, I tell you that there is reason for innumerable thankfulness for God has given us abundant reasons to be thankful.
He has given life where death reigned. He has given hope when only hopelessness existed. He has given joy when despair was alone.
For all of these reasons and more, we “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). It is in this constant rejoicing that we “pray without ceasing” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). A thankful heart drives one to rejoice in the One whom we are thankful in and for. We are not driven to Him apart from the act of prayer, in which we give Him the thanks that is due His name!
We tend to neglect that attitude and action of thankfulness. May it not be so! May this be a new Thanksgiving that we carry a new attitude and new actions, reflecting the truly thankful heart that we have. What are you going to do this Thanksgiving to show “Thank you” rather than say “Thank you?” What are you going to do to give thanks rather than have thanks?