For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15

“Is this what you call a Thanksgiving dinner?” Peppermint Patty angrily shouts in the Peanuts classic “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”

If you’ve never seen the movie,** Peppermint Patty’s frustration comes as a result of her expectations of what Thanksgiving should look like being utterly unfulfilled. Instead of a harvest-inspired feast, she has been served a much less than traditional Thanksgiving meal, on a ping-pong table, by a beagle in a chef’s hat. The entire scene is saturated with irony, as Peppermint Patty has entirely missed the point of why the group of friends has gathered together to recall why they are thankful.

While we chuckle at the moment, how often do we find ourselves as the caricature of Peppermint Patty in the story that God is weaving together? All too often, we allow our expectation of what our lives should look like to distort our perception of the many things for which we have to be thankful. We permit our current situation to determine the entirety of our outlook on life and our circumstances.

Circumstances are a primary influencer of thankfulness — but should they be? Many times our sense of gratitude stems from material possessions or personal experiences — but does it have to? Perhaps our ongoing daily gratitude is lacking, because our sources of gratitude are insufficient.

Thankfulness or gratitude flows from contentment. One definition of contentment is “finding satisfaction in your world as it is, in spite of all of the imperfections and disappointments.” As followers of Jesus, our contentment rests in trusting that God knows our needs and will supply them. In Hebrews, we find a beautiful promise of God to His people — Be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The God of the universe goes before and walks with His people. He will never leave us or forsake us. Ultimately, trusting in God leads us to abundant and ongoing gratitude.

As Peppermint Patty discovered, it’s not always easy to be thankful. With the chaos and confusion that exists in our day to day lives, it is difficult to focus on, or even recognize, the things, people and ultimately the eternity that encourages our thankfulness. Thankfulness is a discipline.

The apostle Paul closes out one of his letters to a local New Testament church by listing out a series of pastoral instructions. Tucked in the list of spiritual disciplines that range from “pray continually” to “abstain from every kind of evil,” we read  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” For those of us who claim Jesus as Savior, our source of gratitude is an eternal one. We have a well of gratitude to draw upon because of what Christ has done for us. The abundant life that Jesus came to bring does not refer to possessions or pleasures. He intends for our lives to be abundant, despite our current situation.

While our circumstances are not the root of thankfulness, God puts temporary sources of gratitude throughout our lives, if we’re willing to recognize them. God has placed you in the moment where you are, so that you can better learn to enjoy Him. As you enjoy Him, others witness that joy. Expressing gratitude not only encourages those around you, it encourages you.

Recounting the small and big reasons to be thankful fills your soul. It prompts you to look beyond your current situation. It allows you to gain perspective on the things which will have a lasting impact on your life and the lives of those around you. Rather than just a “positive outlook” for the sake of positivity, gratitude allows us to endure any “momentary affliction” that might come our way while we’re here in this world because of a “weight of glory” that is promised.

Our gratitude is established and sustained by trusting God in the small day to day circumstances, because we can trust that He is orchestrating together a grand story of redemption that goes beyond our brief moment of existence in this world. We can grasp that good is ahead.

For the believer, despite our experiences or possessions in this world, our future is bright. Our hope is not in vain. Our contentment is not superficial. Our gratitude is warranted. Our worship is fervent.

Not only for this present moment, but for eternity.

 

**If you’ve never seen it, stop reading this article and go watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”