“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1
Some individuals may say, “I have nothing to be thankful for!” (And, given the current state of affairs in our world today, they may feel that that is a very legitimate statement!) However, it is an incorrect statement because our gratitude should not be dependent upon “things.”
If our gratitude is dependent upon “things” then our gratitude will be gone when those “things” are gone.
Psalm 136:1 simply states, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good…” Not because He has done good things but because of His character – the very essence of His being is good! For that reason and that reason alone, we should give Him thanks! Even though we generally give thanks for such things as our possessions, our family, etc. those things are not needed in order to still have a grateful spirit.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job worshipped God even after all of his physical possessions - including his children - had been taken away from him. Even Paul knew how to worship the Lord in the absence of "things."
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
One way in which we can cultivate a thankful attitude is to lower our expectations because one of the many ways in which we lose our gratitude is when our expectations are not met.
This was demonstrated by the Apostle Paul.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
When our expectations are not met we find ourselves developing a critical and complaining spirit instead of a grateful spirit.
Take the children of Israel for example. When they arrived in Marah, they expected to find water to drink. When they didn't find that water, what did they do?
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
The Apostle Paul states it this way:
1 Timothy 6:6–8
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
It is likely that we all entered 2020 with many expectations for this year. I'm fairly confident that most - if not all - of those expectations were not met. While it is not necessarily wrong to have expectations, we must be cautious. As we get ready to go into 2021, we must yield our expectations to the Lord. It is only in that way that we will be able to maintain a thankful spirit when our expectations are not met.
Our giving of thanks should be dependent simply upon two things: God is good. God is merciful.
There are two expectations that we can always count on. God is and always will be good. And God is and always will be merciful. Our circumstances may sometimes cloud God's goodness and His mercy so that we are not able to see them but trusting in God's Word will allow us to see through the clouds and find God's goodness and mercy even in the most terrible circumstances.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.