We are about to launch into that season where parents and grandparents (that’s right, I’m going there) are about to spend copious amounts of money in hopes of making children happy. “Slow down,” we plead as they rip through present after present with barely slowing down to enjoy the gift purchased with blood, debt, and tears. Or worse, if they stop to enjoy one present, they are encouraged to, “Keep going” and “play with that later, we have a lot of presents to get through!” Finally, after the ripped up Christmas/Hanukkah paper has settled, we expect to see one particular yet elusive emotion evoked from said little ones.
Yet more often than not, only moments after this grand display of affection, we find ourselves saying the same thing.
“You should be grateful!”
Similarly, this same fruitless technique for producing gratefulness is utilized at popular theme parks. Thousands of dollars are shelled out for a week of extreme delight, yet this sacrifice is quite often met with temper tantrums, melt downs, and requests for more! A visit to see Mickey isn’t enough. We want a special Mickey ice cream too. A picture with Elsa isn’t enough. Next comes the request for the Elsa doll. All is given in pursuit of the much sought after grateful child. Yet no matter how much is doled out, we find ourselves saying,
“You should be grateful!”
Here’s the reality. We have it all wrong.
Material possessions will not satisfy.
You may feel thankful, in that moment, yes. But it doesn’t last. I have attended many churches that told us that healing and prosperity would lead people to Christ. If I was healed, people would see that, marvel, and be saved. While this absolutely can happen, it is actually not the norm. Take this example from the Bible in Luke 17. Against all odds, these 10 lepers received the one thing they all craved with every fiber of their being. Healing. All ten! Healed. However, what was the result?
15 Then ONE of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not TEN cleansed? Where are the NINE? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Getting doesn’t garner gratefulness.
Like almost never.
True heartfelt gratefulness decidedly comes from want,not plenty.
This concept clearly resonated with me a few years ago while listening to Pastor Doug Sauder in a parenting class. “If you want to make someone grateful for hot water, take them on a missions trip where they will get one cold shower for the whole week. When they get home they will feel more grateful for that hot water than ever before.”
Prosperity without perspective can never produce gratefulness.
I do not think that I am unique in my desire to make my children happy. I want them to open their presents and discover that present they were dreaming about. I want them to have that moment of sheer bliss when their dreams are fulfilled but at what cost? Because more than wanting them to be happy, I want them to be grateful. I want them to find joy rather than pursue happiness. Godliness with contentment is great gain. This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for me. I want to be content. I want to be grateful. I need to remember that I am indebted. I am an indentured servant. I deserve nothing but have been given everything.
However, it is uncommonly easy to forget these goals and trade them in for a momentary feeling. Case and point: I sat at a friends house watching my 4 year old son launching hot wheels into the air on a loop-da-loop contraption yelling “AWESOME!” and thought….”I need that. He needs that. Look how happy that would make him. I know I said that we had enough toys, but that should be an exception. Clearly.”
But then I remembered. We have no room. We don’t need it. He doesn’t need it. This moment is a moment, and he can experience it whenever he is at someone’s house that has this toy, and it will be special.
I want him to be grateful. I want him to be content. This goal is more important than that momentary, and I do mean momentary, happiness that will come from opening the “perfect” gift.
This point was reiterated to me on Facebook with a map showing the unique things for which people were thankful. People that had experienced drought were thankful for rain. People that had experienced power outages were thankful for electricity.
Here is the point.
Take a deep breath. Step away from the internet. Put down the credit card. And pray. Ask the Lord to show you how to cultivate gratefulness in your own heart and your children’s hearts. If you can’t afford those sought after toys of the season put down that mom-guilt right now. God has a plan and a purpose for this season of your life, and it is not for you to acquire debt or ignore other financial responsibilities (like saving for a rainy day) simply to chase the ghost of false joy. You can take confidence in the truth that if your children have less, you are likely closer to the ultimate goal of gratefulness. On the other hand however, if you can afford whatever your heart desires, pray even harder to keep from indulgence which is the enemy of a grateful heart.
This is not another post about Thanksgiving. It’s not even necessarily about Christmas. It’s bigger than that. Grasping gratefulness and cultivating contentment is a year round adventure. Living in the world we do, this is no humble task. Every commercial, every friend, every Facebook status tells you ….you need this!!! Fight it. Do not accept it. The only thing you need more of is Jesus. And he will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.
If you are a Christian, you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life. If you are a parent you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your child’s life. That is why this lesson is so important!
I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us in no uncertain terms what His will is!!
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Read this powerful point in Job 20:20:
“Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.
If you are not satisfied in Christ, you will grasp at everything!
The apostle Paul was able to be content in everything. Why? Because of his great prosperity? His easy life? No. Because he was satisfied in his appetite, in the quietness of his heart with Christ. That is how we produce gratefulness. When our hearts are filled day by day, moment by moment, with God’s word, when our mouths and hearts are filled with praise, there we will find gratefulness. The best gift you can give your children and/or yourself is a thirst for Christ and His Word, at every age and stage. Amen!