In spite of all God’s goodness to me (forgiveness from sin and fellowship with God, my family, my church, my home…), I often spend my days griping about the little things I “don’t appreciate,” such as: my schedule not working out exactly as I had planned, a friend or family member not treating me just the way I think I deserve, not having nearly as much energy as I would like. It’s shameful. I think I probably make the Israelites look grateful.
One way I’m tempted to complain is when I think I am treated “unfairly” by someone else. (Although, in truth, hell would actually be my “fair treatment.”) But as I was re-reading a portion of Dad’s book, Humility, yesterday, I was struck afresh by 1 Corinthians 1:4. There Paul tells the Corinthians, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”
What’s amazing about that verse isn’t necessarily what Paul says, but who he says it to. The Corinthians, besides being an extremely immature church with numerous problems, also included a group who were personally opposed to Paul! And yet, Paul was thanking God for them. And he didn’t just begrudgingly thank God for them at Thanksgiving time. No, Paul’s gratefulness to God for the Corinthians was a joyful, year-round tradition!
I wonder: how often do we include the people we have difficulty with on the list of what we’re grateful for at Thanksgiving—or any other time of year? Paul’s example is perspective-altering. It’s where “difficult people” become yet another reason to give thanks to God.
Truly expressing gratefulness for others is only possible because of the one act in history for which we ought to be supremely grateful: when our perfect, holy, Savior died in our place. It is only by the grace that flows from the cross that truly difficult people can genuinely thank God for other difficult people.
And you know, I may just have been added to several people’s Thanksgiving lists!