The Power of Thankfulness
Written by Tina Chang
One of my favorite activities is hiking in the mountains. Last summer, Tim and I were blessed with the opportunity to do just that in Glacier National Park. The most memorable trail was to Grinnell Glacier. It came highly recommended, but we didn’t really know what to expect at the top. As we rounded a hill near the summit, I caught my breath in awe, surprise, and delight at the sight that lay before us. It was quite literally breathtaking.
We stayed for as long as we could before making the 6-mile trek back down. The whole time I kept saying and thinking “Wow!” I could have stayed there for hours, maybe even days. Could I ever get tired of looking at beauty like that? Is this a taste of what it’s like to be in God’s presence in Heaven?
Even though we did have to leave the beauty of Grinnell Glacier, God has been teaching me more and more that His presence can be felt in our everyday lives. Not just at alpine lakes with wildflowers and a waterfall. Last month, I listened to Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She describes how her practice of gratitude brought joy in God despite days filled with the mundane or anxieties. During this time of pandemic and uncertainty, her book has been so applicable.
As I learn to give thanks for God’s everyday blessings in my life, I am more aware that His gifts are truly all around. The cool breeze rustling through new spring leaves, my 2-year-old learning to sing, the soft cotton of our clothes that need folding, the crunch of freshly toasted bread, the inquisitive mind of my 4-year-old (although it makes for long bedtime routines). Music, colors, laughter, clean water. The list doesn’t stop! I can choose to be distracted, to take these things for granted. Or, I can pause even for a moment, notice, and give thanks to God, the source of all good gifts (James 1:17).
Yes, everyone on earth can enjoy these blessings. But as Christ-followers, our enjoyment of these gifts is much deeper. Although our world is far from perfect, the more I reflect on God’s good gifts, the more I can see His abundant grace. Food doesn't have to taste good. Music, art, culture, poetry, dancing, flowers - none are essential for existence. He has given us five senses, not just to experience our world, but to experience His constant presence and know Him better. Jesus’s sacrifice (the greatest gift) allows us to have direct access and communion with the Father. What’s more, He sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s very name is Emmanuel - God with us. The presence of the triune God is what brings us true joy and comfort, whether in green pastures or in dark valleys (Psalm 23). How amazing that the giver, the creator, is our Father who cares and provides for each of us and never leaves us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Truly, we can say with Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
Despite all of this, I still sometimes fear God will not provide for me. Growing up in an environment of scarcity, I often find it difficult to truly trust that God is a good Father who provides abundantly. I fear that if I fully surrender my life, and give more of my time, money, or myself, I will live in scarcity and suffering. Giving thanks in humility is a way to fight this fear. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God’s way is not drudgery, it is a way of delight! When I delight in Him (not obey out of guilt or obligation) my desires will align with His. I can then give freely as I trust in the one who freely gives all good things.
Lord, give us eyes to see your blessings all around us and may we delight in you!