Grappling with Gratitude
By Lindsay Carlin
Take a moment and think of all the blessings you’ve received over the entire course of your life. Yes, your entire life. Go back, far back. You could even start with that award you received in primary school and move on from there. Perhaps to this blessings list you add the fact that you have a roof over your head to protect you from the winter rains, or food on the table every night. Maybe you have clothing to choose from in the morning, or a car that will get you to work on time. You may actually have a job to go to every day. If you’re blessed enough to have friends or family to share your life with, don’t forget to add them. I bet the list in your head is getting pretty long, because the simple truth is that most of us have many reasons to be grateful. Why then is being grateful just so hard at times?
Martin Luther referred to gratitude as the basic Christian attitude; it should mould and shape our lives—how we act, how we view others, and how we manage our finances and make decisions. Yet we still struggle with the concept on a daily basis. You may have a long list of things to be grateful for or only a short one, but as Christ-followers our gratitude shouldn’t be based on our earthly situation. It should be based on our eternal hope.
This past Easter weekend, I was (yet again) overwhelmed by the grace and love that Christ has for us. Think about it: the Creator of the universe, a man who knew no sin, wants to have a personal relationship with us—and not because of anything we’ve done!
Isaiah 53: 3-4 tells us that, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”
We didn’t exactly give God a reason to send His only son to die for us. Our track record as a human race proves that we aren’t worthy of anything at all. In fact, we even mocked and scorned God. We turned our backs on him and blamed him for all of the difficulties in our lives.
BUT, despite our many failings, Christ came and died for us.
Tim Keller says that our struggle with gratitude is because we have become immune to the size of the debt paid. He tells a story about a doctor who came home from work to a friend who said, “Oh, while you were out, a bill came so I just paid it for you.” On hearing this the doctor was of course grateful for the paid bill, but he didn’t know just how grateful he should be. He didn’t know whether the bill was merely a handful of change or if it was for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the first instance, a simple “thank you” would’ve sufficed, but if the doctor had known that the bill was worth thousands, he probably would’ve fallen to the ground and kissed his friend’s feet! The bottom line: His reaction hinged on the size of the debt paid.
We have the benefit of knowing that Jesus paid a GARGANTUAN debt for us and our gratitude, regardless of our current situation, should match the price He paid for us. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still very powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Too often we lose sight of the magnitude of what He has done for us and in the process become greedy and ungrateful. That’s our own sinful nature creeping into our lives. We must keep coming back to God in adoration and gratitude to Him. If you’re struggling with this, why not create a list of every blessing you have in your life? Start from with the basics (food, shelter, clothing) and see where you go. I bet you’ll be surprised by the end. But regardless of how long or short your list is, you have a reason to be eternally grateful.
Let’s not forget the immense debt that Christ has paid for us. Let’s let gratitude overwhelm our hearts to the point where it pours over into the lives of others.
If we could truly comprehend what Christ has done for us, our lives would drastically change. To be a Christ-follower means to live a life of gratitude. We don’t deserve to live another day, but Christ has given us a lifetime to live for Him. Today, let’s choose to be grateful.