G. K. Chesterton was a remarkable individual who belonged to the early twentieth century. His genius combined the abilities of a novelist, critic, poet, popular theologian, and writer of detective stories. Toward the end of his life in 1936 he turned his attention, and considerable ability to the writing of his autobiography. As part of the process, he tried to distill into a single sentence the most important lesson he had learned from life. After many false starts, and wrong answers, he finally settled on this: “The chief idea of my life . . . is the idea of taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted,” He added elsewhere in the book, “The aim of life is appreciation: there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”
An attitude of gratitude is indeed a noble, and necessary thing. The Bible tells us that it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord (Psa. 92:1-2). Given the depth of God’s love, the breadth of God’s mercy, and the height of God’s faithfulness to each of us, each of us needs to do a better job at cultivating an attitude of gratitude. God, as the psalmist notes, loads us down with blessings on a daily basis, and therefore the aim of our lives ought to be greater appreciation (Psa. 68:19; 103:1-5; 145:2).
To help us cultivate an attitude of gratitude, I thought about the fact that we ought to give thanks to the Lord for the things the Lord gave thanks for. In a recent study I was struck by the thankfulness of Jesus. Firstly, Jesus gave thanks for food. In John 6:11 Jesus gave thanks for the loaves and fish from which He would feed the five thousand. Christ, the bread of life, paused to thank God for a loaf of bread. In a land of abundant food, like America, may we give thanks to God for our food, the appetite to enjoy it, and the taste buds to savor it (Psalm 103:5)! Secondly, Jesus gave thanks for answered prayer. In John 11:41, Jesus thanks the Father for answering His prayer regarding the raising of Lazarus. Surely, we can thank God for the many answers to prayer that litter our path through life. We rejoice that God hears, and answers our prayers before we pray (Isa. 65:24), while we pray (Acts 12:1-17), and after we pray (1 Sam. 1:19, 27). Thirdly, Jesus gives thanks for the fruit of suffering. In Luke 22:19, Jesus gives thanks to the Father for what He was going to accomplish through Christ’s death on the Cross. Through the brokenness of Jesus, many would be made whole. Christ’s suffering would be painful, but clearly profitable. We too, can thank God for the blessed benefits of our trials, and tears. Suffering clarifies our values (James 1:2-4, 9-10); makes us more compassionate (2 Cor. 1:4); crushes our pride (2 Cor. 12:1-10); and develops fortitude in us (Rom. 5:1-3).
Like Jesus, let us take things with gratitude, not for granted.