Lessons in Gratitude

By Carey Helmink

Well friends, the holidays are fast approaching once again. I don’t know why I am always shocked when this time of the year occurs again. We KNOW it’s coming – every year – but the older I get, the faster it comes it would seem. 😊

Of course, the subject of gratitude is at the forefront with Thanksgiving next week. Arguably, it should ALWAYS be at the forefront of our thoughts, but I have been thinking about it more the past couple of weeks, and I just have a couple of reminders for you this morning regarding gratitude. Reminders I have needed as well.

I read this passage from Exodus a couple weeks ago and the Lord keeps bringing it back to my mind. The Israelites have just been miraculously delivered from the land of Egypt and have been provided for every step of the way. Exodus 16 starts out like this:

“The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. (Uh, side note – you were also SLAVES at the time.) Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!” (Can you hear the whining in their voices?)

I’m sorry, I just can’t avoid the commentary. My goodness! And then, despite their whining, the Lord provides manna for these people and explains to Moses how it is to be used. And then I love Moses’ response to the people:

Verse 6 says: So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites:

“This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because he has heard your complaints ABOUT HIM. For who are we that you complain about us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and all the bread you want in the morning, for he has heard the complaints you are raising AGAINST HIM. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but AGAINST THE LORD.”

Lesson one – when I am filled with discontent and do not have a thankful heart – my complaint is against the Lord. I may indirectly be blaming someone else for the situation, maybe even blaming myself, but ultimately my lack of gratitude is directed at the Lord and what he may or may not have given to me or allowed me to experience.

Lesson two – my expectations for this life change dramatically when I remember that I am living in a war zone. A wonderful meal would be appreciated much more if I were eating it in a foxhole, while a wonderful meal in a palace is more of an expectation than something to be grateful for. How could it change our perspectives if, on an ongoing basis, we view everything we have been given as a gift in the middle of a battleground?

John Eldredge says it this way:

“The deep, unshakable conviction that you were born into a great war is such a critical belief that you MUST lay hold of it. Otherwise, you’ll have a very hard time maintaining a belief in the goodness of God.” (Or I would add, living your life with a grateful heart.)

He goes on to say:

“I’d rather believe that life is about simple happiness under the tender care of Jesus. I’d much prefer to be lifted out of all trouble simply by praising God. But it simply isn’t true, and the sooner you accept that life is far more like a D-Day landing than a church service, the sooner you’ll be able to orient yourself . . . and learn how to navigate your way forward.”

As we approach this holiday season, let’s remember that we are living in a war zone. ANY and EVERY good and perfect gift comes from the Lord, and any ungratefulness we harbor is directed at Him.

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