The excitement of being a mom was running through my veins. It’s what I had dreamed about since I was a little girl. He was finally here. Seeing the tiny human that I brought home from the hospital was mine, God’s amazing gift to me. It must have been about the third time waking up in the middle of that first night to his demanding cries, wanting to eat, that it sunk in: this little one was my responsibility, he wasn’t going anywhere. He cried demanding my attention and I jumped to meet his needs. I realize now that if I had never taught my son to be thankful for the things God blessed us with, his cries demanding attention would look a little different, but the results would be the same. He would have grown into a man who felt entitled.
As a parent, we need to teach our children to have gratitude by practicing giving thanks. As our children grow, they need to get to the place where they take that teaching and practice it daily. If we don’t consciously train ourselves to have a heart of thanksgiving, it’s easy to fall back into that sense of entitlement. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
If we don’t teach our children to give thanks to our Lord in every situation, who will?
Did you know that thankfulness comes up seventy-one times in the New Testament and one hundred and two times in the Old Testament? It appears that giving thanks is important to our Heavenly Father. God commands us to be thankful because of the benefit it gives us. Psalms 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.” In just this verse, we are told that we receive strength, protection, peace, help, and joy; as a result it should lead us to songs of thanksgiving.
In Psalms alone, there are twenty four different Psalms that speak of giving thanks. That means one out of every six Psalms points us toward a heart of gratitude. David was no stranger to hard times, yet throughout his Psalms, he continually praises the Lord. In Psalm 100:1-5 David says, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good, His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations.” If we don’t teach our children to give thanks to our Lord in every situation, who will? If you noticed, the Psalm doesn’t say, “give thanks to God because of a specific action that He performed.” No, it just says, give thanks to God. Why? Because He is God. He is good. We are to come before Him with thanksgiving and praise His name.
While preparing to write this blog, one particular story kept coming to mind from Luke 17, where Jesus heals the ten lepers. I had always looked at this miraculous story as one that emphasized faith leading to healing, but this time it was like God shined a spotlight on the one leper who returned to Jesus to say thank you. Why didn’t the other men return? There is really no way of knowing, but it makes me wonder if those other men were taught by their parents to have a heart of gratitude? The one man, a Samaritan none the less, realized he was clean, turned around, and ran back to Jesus praising God. It says he threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him! I believe the other nine lepers were thankful that they had been healed, and I’m sure they rejoiced and celebrated, but the lone leper, the Samaritan, had a heart full of gratitude and wanted to return to the one who made him whole. The oxford definition defines the word thankful as “pleased and relieved”, which all ten lepers were sure to be. But in comparison it defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” The kind of thankfulness the Bible is talking about is taking that next step of being thankful and turning it into an action.
A heart of gratitude should follow us wherever we go. As a parent, be an example to your children, teach them to give thanks.
Colossians 2:6-7 tells us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Did you catch the phrase, “as you were taught?” One key way to teach is in the way you live. The other day while out to eat with my children, I noticed that all of us say thank you to the server every time the server comes to the table. Altogether we must have said the words “thank you” over twenty times during our meal. The funny thing is I never realized that my parents always did that, so I learned to do that and as a result my children now do it. I think our server got the picture that we were thankful. It just shows that if you live out a life of gratitude, without even trying, you are teaching your children to be thankful as well.
If left to ourselves we would have become self-absorbed, feeling entitled. Think about my story of bringing my newborn son home from the hospital. He didn’t ask politely for his needs to be met, he demanded that they be met. It took years of teaching him that everything we have is from the Lord and that we need to praise Him with thanksgiving for all He’s done. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We won’t always feel like giving thanks. We face hard times in this world. We are facing hard times right now, some more than others. But it’s times like these when every ounce of our being needs to cry out to God and find joy in giving thanks. I encourage you when you are feeling low and without hope, try singing praises to our Lord and let His joy fill you. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter what I’m going through, His peace fills me, so I thank Him for just being with me.
A heart of gratitude should follow us wherever we go. As a parent, be an example to your children, teach them to give thanks. At work, show gratitude to your coworkers and even to your boss. At church, enter the sanctuary with thanksgiving in your hearts, praising the Lord. If we look around us and seek out opportunities to show gratitude to those around us, like the song Put a Little Love in Your Heart says, “And the world will be a better place for you and me, you just wait and see.”