Towards the end of the previous post in this series on joy we spoke about contentment. A major cousin of contentment is gratitude. We see this in verse 6 of Psalm 16: ‘The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places…’ I love that phrase. I feel a bit like that. I look at my life and I think: my goodness, how did that happen? I have a job I love, I have a home I love, I have a church I love, I have a wife I love, I have kids I love, I have even been persuaded to have a dog! Sometimes these things fall into our lap and we forget to thank God. David had many extreme difficulties in his life but still he kept coming to God in gratitude.
It is vital for us to realize that expressing gratitude to God is a great source of joy. If you are feeling sad right now, begin to thank God. Start with the obvious things. Thank him for your life. Thank him for health if you have it. If you are unhealthy thank him that you are not as unfortunate as some others. No matter what your situation you have something to be grateful to God for. Thank him for your job, your home, your friends, your family, your church, as you think of more and more things to thank him for, watch out, joy may well begin to well up within you!
When my children were younger, one of them loved praying at night. He loved praying thank You God for this, thank You God for that, thank You God for the next thing. It is a good thing to encourage our children to do. But after a while I think he decided to shorten this whole process and so he just said “Thank You God for everything, amen”. That was his prayer. I tried to encourage him to pray more but he said no, that’s it. I’ve thanked God for everything. In many ways, that is one of the best prayers you can every pray, thank You God for everything because we know that in Romans 8:28: ‘…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose’.
Anger, frustration, perfectionism, unquenchable desires, all these things do not co-exist with joy. Contentment and gratitude and the acceptance that God has given you a good life and that, yes, sometimes there are problems but that God turns these things around for us for our God, such an attitude brings much joy.