I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Part 1: Rejoice Evermore
I thought that I was a grateful person. That I was thankful for things I should be thankful for and that I didn’t really take too many things for granted. But I was wrong. And so here we are.
Ok. How did I get here? What was my wake-up call that I needed to be more thankful? Well, my children. They are the most ungrateful, spoiled children there are. (Maybe not really the MOST ungrateful, but at the very least, VERY ungrateful.) I can say this, because #1 It’s true and #2 It doesn’t change the fact that they are good kids. They are just ungrateful. Unthankful. Privileged.
If you know my kids, you might not think this. They are just normal kids. We have fights around our house daily about who gets the last piece of chicken, who has to get up and do what Mama or Daddy asked when we so foolishly say “someone do this” instead of picking a name. There are arguments because someone got the bigger cookie, someone got the last good flavor of poptart. Sulky attitudes because we didn’t get to swim in our pool today. Sighs because we have to get a shower. Again. We just had one last night. Eye rolls because the trash is full. AGAIN. And it’s our job to take the trash out. What kid actually likes to wash dishes and sweep a messy kitchen? I get it. But this does not mean that it is right. Just because everyone else’s kids act this way, does not mean I can let it go when mine do.
Does this sound like your family too? I would say it is the average American child attitude. We have given them responsibility. They have chores. They do not get an allowance because, hello, they live and eat here. (Yes I’m one of THOSE parents.) We teach them the value of money, that you shouldn’t be able to eat if you don’t work, and to say please and thank you, etc, etc. Yet still, they are ungrateful. And these past few months, it has stood out to me that I am raising ungrateful, selfish children who don’t even realize how good they truly have it. And it has pushed our family to the breaking point. Really, Faith? Yes. Because I am tired of living UNthankful. It is a very miserable way to live. Let me say that again. Living unthankful is a very miserable way to live. But, what to do?
Well, we could go to a foreign country so they could see how terrible other children really have it. I hope one day we are able to do that. But not now.
I racked my brain as to how I could really make an impact. Words are words. I can beat them over the head all day with “do you know how many children go to bed hungry?” and all the other questions parents ask their kids when they are being ungrateful. My parents use to tell me that all the time. But does it really sink in just how good we have it?
I had been looking for a good book to read out loud at the beginning of school each day because my kids struggle to enjoy reading. I thought if I read them an interesting book, it might pique their interest. I don’t know how I arrived at my choice, other than the Lord bringing it to my mind, but it kind of killed two birds with one stone. Enter, “The Hiding Place”. I bought the young reader’s edition so it was appropriate for their ages. This is the story of Corrie ten Boom and how she and her family were arrested for hiding Jews in their home. (If you’re interested, you can buy the book here.)
This has been good for us. It is actually working. At least one of my boys is really enjoying it. I suspect the other one is too, he just doesn’t want to admit it. And whether or not it is opening their eyes to be more thankful, it is mine. We are only on chapter 6, but I got so engrossed in it, that I went ahead and finished the book without them.
All the while, I am still begging and pleading with God to show me how to teach my children gratitude. And I believe, unfortunately, He is having to teach me first. I say unfortunately because I am ashamed that I live being so ungrateful. Being aggravated that my children are so ungrateful has opened my eyes to how ungrateful I am.
I got to the part in the book where Corrie and her sister, Betsie, have been arrested and now moved to the concentration camp from prison. They have already faced many horrible things. Starving, no sanitation, the death of their father, sleeping on bedding that is soiled and rancid, in a small room with over 200 ladies. And Corrie discovers fleas. She asks her sister how they can possibly live in such a place. Betsie whispers a plea to the Lord, “Show me. Show me how to live here.” She tells Corrie to read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and then tells her they can give thanks about everything in their new barracks. Corrie, like me, is doubtful. But her sister starts naming things and makes Corrie name things too. But the funny thing about forcing yourself to be thankful when it seems like there is nothing to be thankful for? You find you really DO have a lot you CAN be thankful for. They are thankful for being together, that they hold a Bible in their hands, that so many are packed in together because it’s more who can hear the gospel. Her sister says “And thank you, God, for the fleas.” Corrie tries to argue, but IN EVERY THING give thanks. And so, she does. She thanks God for the fleas. Because her sister wisely reminds her that the fleas are part of the place God has them.
Almost to the end of the book, it’s discovered that their barracks was given more freedom because the head guard refused to step foot past their door. Because of the fleas.
And this is where God really started working on me. Because of fleas. If Corrie ten Boom can be thankful for fleas in a rotten, stinking prison while facing unimaginable horror and tragedy, then I can learn to be thankful too. And it hit me – I am as unthankful and ungrateful as my children. Maybe even more. I am being the best worst example to them.
I complain just as much as they do. But I’m mama, so who is going to tell me to stop? Who do I answer to? The One Who has blessed me so much, that I have absolutely no reason to complain, ever. Ouch.
I have clothes and shoes gallore. My walk-in, walk-in, did you get that? I have a walk-in closet. That is blessed. Anyway, my walk-in closet is full. So full it’s messy. But still, I want more, I want better. My pantry is full. And not always because we have money to fill it, but we have family and friends that have helped us fill it, but nothing is good enough. I complain because I want something different. Ugh, nothing sounds good for supper tonight. I don’t want that again. It will make such a mess to cook that, and then it will take forever to get the kitchen straightened back up. I am blessed that I have food to chose and when I don’t, the grocery store is 5 minutes away. I am blessed that I have mouths to feed and a stove to cook on and a dishwasher to help me clean my dirty dishes. I am blessed. My house takes forever to clean. That means that there is life being lived in my house. What a blessing. My laundry stays piled up. That means there are people in my house that are healthy enough to get up and get dressed and go to work and go play outside. I’m blessed. And yet, my richest blessings cause my biggest complaints.
But beyond the material things, I might have a bad day. Lots of bad days. But I’m alive. I woke up. I woke up in a comfy bed, beside my loved one. I’m able to get out of that bed. No matter how much I don’t want to or don’t feel like it, I can. I am blessed. I don’t live my days in a hospital ward, begging God to spare my children’s lives for one more day. No instead I’m begging Him to help. us. be. more. thankful. God, help us. That shouldn’t be a prayer we should have to pray.
So how do we live truly thankful lives and how do we show our children to be grateful for what they have? We rejoice. Rejoice – feel or show great joy or delight. It basically means re-joy. The prefix “re” means to do something over and over. Again and again. So, all those things I mentioned above, at one time, we were thankful for them. They brought us joy. I loved that new pair of shoes I bought. I was thankful for them. Until I bought so many that I didn’t have room for them anymore; until they got old; or out of style. Until I got tired of them. If I had been thankful for them, over and over, again and again, would I have ever gotten unthankful for them? My children were ecstatic that someone basically gave us a pool. GAVE. We only had to buy the liner. That was a joyful day. But we’ve lived with it for years and years and now it’s just a given that we have one. At any time during the summer, it is available to us. They are no longer thankful for it. Those are just material things. I had always taken being able to stand up without holding onto something for granted. We all do, right? Because who ever thinks that would be something that could be taken away? But now that I can’t remember what it feels like, I realize I took that for granted.
We take so many “joys” for granted that I think we become ungrateful because we’ve forgotten how much they used to mean to us. If we lived thankful for them every day, and I mean truly thankful, would they become that way? I don’t think so.
So our homework assignment for Part 1 is:
- Biblical application: Rejoice evermore. ~Always~
- Practical application: Start a thankfulness journal. Each day, write down something you are thankful for. Date it. Keep it. Be truly thankful for it. And when tomorrow comes, be thankful for day two AND day one’s entries. Don’t forget what you were thankful for yesterday. Re-joy-ce.
I say ‘our’ homework assignment because I’m still learning, too. I wish I could come to you with this series, having it all figured out. But nope. I’m living it with you.
Want to come along? Join me next week for Part 2.