Abounding in Thanksgiving in a World of Grumbling
by Mike Pohlman
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
My family and I just completed our first full week in our new home in Richmond, Virginia after leaving Los Angeles to begin my new job as editor of Christianity.com. And if I’m honest I cannot say I’ve been “abounding in thanksgiving” over the last several days. No. In fact, “abounding in grumbling” may be the more accurate phrase to describe my disposition of late. I’ve grumbled about the weather, traffic, leaves, the movers and a myriad of other things petty and not-so-petty. None of this grumbling, however, has been constructive or justified. And, most importantly, it’s been sinful.
To help combat this steady bombardment of grumbling I corralled our children the other night for a family time of thanksgiving. You’ve probably practiced this exercise many times as well: go from person-to-person and highlight things you’re thankful for (it’s tough to grumble when you pause to consider the many blessings in your life).
It took my nine-year-old Samuel some time to get warmed up, but eventually he offered a short list of things he’s thankful for, including our new church. Anna was next. What would our seven-year-old daughter express gratitude for? Her new neighbor friends across the street and the Bible. Good stuff. Finally it was John’s turn. He echoed his big brother on some things and agreed with Anna that the neighbors are great, and then with the zeal of most six-year-old boys who love sports, Johnny thanked God for his new basketball hoop out front (and proceeded to remind me of how he beat me in “21” over the weekend, 21 to 17). As Julia left to put our newborn down for the night, I shared with the kids several things I was thankful for. But it wasn't until the next day that I realized the inadequacy of my list.
While I voiced gratitude for God generally, I failed to highlight specific attributes of God that, when I consider them, cause me to “abound in thanksgiving.” Driving to work the next morning I found myself asking, “What is it about God that I am most grateful for?”
The one attribute of God that flooded my heart and mind was His providence—the fact that He orchestrates everything in my life for His glory and my good. It’s the promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
In his helpful book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges applies Romans 8:28 to the sin of ingratitude. He counsels: “The meaning is that God causes all things to work together for good; for ‘things’—that is, circumstances—do not work together for good themselves. Rather, God directs the outcome of those circumstances for our good.” And what is the “good” God is working? Christlikeness. Indeed, all of our circumstances God uses as a means of our sanctification. I began to abound in thanksgiving as I visualized God as the great conductor over my circumstances, using them as an instrument for my growth in grace.
This Thanksgiving holiday I want me and my family to be “abounding in thanksgiving.” And for this to happen I know being thankful for God in a merely general sense will not suffice. We need to meditate on some particular glories of our great God—not least of which is His sweet providence over our lives. For this I am most grateful.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Take a moment this Thanksgiving and ask yourself, “What specific attribute of God am I grateful for?” Perhaps you’ll recall His love or mercy or grace or forgiveness or patience or wrath or providence. Challenge your mind to meditate on, and prayerfully consider, some particular glory of God as a means of abounding in thanksgiving
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges
Knowing God, J.I. Packer
“But God,” Katherine Britton
1 Thessalonians 5:18