Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 NIV
I have recently come across a rash of articles detailing how, even when life is challenging, the authors are choosing thankfulness. Their reasoning stems from the conclusion that others long for the very things that are creating stress and exhaustion in their own lives, so they should be grateful for said things. Simply because of the life stage that I’m in, most of the articles I have come across center on parenthood, but I would wager that there are others out there dealing with job stresses, spouses, and the like. My guess is that you have traveled this thought pattern as well. I know I certainly have! Join me for a minute and see if it sounds familiar:
“Why does my husband always get stuck with overtime? I wish he were home to help with the kids so I could make dinner. I’m always stepping on toys in this house and oh look – the laundry from two days ago still isn’t put away. Ugh, I’m so selfish. Some people would give their left arm to have a husband (with a job, no less!), kids to make a mess, and toys for them to make that mess with. I really am grateful for this life.”
Can you relate? Maybe you find yourself on Sunday nights dreading the sound of your alarm the next morning and, more so, walking into the office only to pick up last week’s mess right where you left it on Friday. And then you begin feeling guilty because, after all, you have a job and you know you should feel grateful for it. If you’re like me, you find yourself on this same hamster wheel day in and day out.
While there is some value in being aware of our situation in life as compared to others, that value lies in realizing what we can give away to build others up, not in being a motivator for gratitude. If we maintain our attitude of gratefulness by comparing ourselves to others, this is not only insulting to those other people, but it is a flimsy foundation that is sure to crumble, leading us into the same cycle again and again. If there is someone who lacks what we have, there are sure to be others who have what we want. All it takes is one look at Instagram or one drive into “that neighborhood” and suddenly our attitude of gratitude is crushed all over again. It cannot stand on those terms. Why? Because our eyes are pulled downward and inward instead of up to the Creator and Giver of all things. But what if there were a better way?
I love this verse in James because it is a steadfast reminder that each and every blessing in our lives comes not by our own hand, but from our God who is perfect and who owes us nothing, yet delights in blessing us nonetheless. This is by far a better motivator for gratitude than comparison. It provides us with a perspective that brings a purpose to the people and things in our lives which goes far beyond having them purely for our own happiness. When we know that all we have is grace upon grace, we cannot help but overflow with gratitude to our Creator. Suddenly, all of life is a gift and it no longer matters what anyone else has or does not have. What matters is that the God who does not change saw fit to bless us so that we, in turn, can pour out blessings on others – both those with more and those with less than we have.
- Our jobs become a gift because God has a purpose for us in them.
- Our children are a joy and blessing because God saw fit to allow us to steward little lives.
- Our finances are a blessing because God has given us the means to provide for our family and to share with others, that they may be blessed.
- Our spouses are a gift because we have the opportunity to reflect Jesus to the watching world through our relationship.
Can you feel the subtle difference? Our good and perfect gifts become a reflection of the heart of our Savior. This week, my encouragement for us is that we would take some time to meditate on James 1:17. Then, that we would pause and consider all that God has seen fit to bless us with, and how each of those things is a reflection of his love and lavish grace in our lives. I pray that the Holy Spirit would generate a gratitude in us that is rooted in the character of God and which allows us to love and serve others in the same way that He has loved us. Let’s be grateful simply because He is God, and we are not.
I hope you have a wonderful week, friends!