One spring day we had a flood in our house. It wasn’t the basement, as so many have suffered through, but the upstairs bathroom. A drain pipe broke and water was pouring through the ceiling to the floor below. We caught it right away and my handy husband was able to repair the bathroom pipe quickly.
What if no one were home when it happened? What if the water had continued to pour through, damaging carpets, furniture, walls? The Lord prompted me right away to be thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t much worse, thankful that we did catch it and my husband was able to repair it.
But the day that it happened, I was struggling. I was fighting frustration and self-pity. I was not practicing thankfulness that day the crisis happened. Maybe God allowed it to happen to wake me up; to help me realize that I do enjoy abundant blessings from His hand. That I do have much to be thankful for; that self-pity and thanklessness are sin.
Pastor and author Mark Buchanan speaks of this:
Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn’t dwell, the place, that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” Hebrews 12:15 says, “and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root. (from The Holy Wild, page 107.)
Later, he quotes Romans 1:21:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Buchanan compares the unthankful Christian to unregenerate, wicked mankind. I was shocked by this when I read it. Just because I’m not being thankful I’m like them?
But an ungrateful heart is offensive to God because He has shown us much mercy. He has done great things for us and we have forgotten. And then I remembered that sin begets sin. The more we persist in sin, the more we excuse it or disregard it, the more firmly entrenched it becomes. We become captive to it, enslaved, some use the term stronghold.An ungrateful heart is offensive to God because He has shown us much mercy. He has done great things for us and we have forgotten. Click To Tweet
No married woman starts the day off thinking, “Maybe I’ll embark on an adulterous affair today!” No Christian man says, “I think I’ll become addicted to pornography.” These things happen over time, with a hundred small choices. One conversation leads to another, one look becomes several. Sin results in more sin. And eventually we find ourselves trapped, unable to break free from these habits.
One of the doorways to developing a bitter heart is through anger. But another equally easy doorway is to habitually indulge in self-pity. “Poor me,” we say, “I never had the great family she grew up in.” Or we look at someone else’s great marriage or financial situation or children, and we become angry and resentful.
We resent others for having what we don’t, we blame God for not giving us this or that or for allowing that hard thing to happen. We continue in this thinking, until, over time…
We find ourselves trapped in anger, resentment, bitterness.
So one of the ways to guard against resentment and bitter thinking is to fight thoughts of self-pity and replace them with thanksgiving. They are at the opposite ends of a spectrum: you can either be one or the other, but never both.
We can always find something to be thankful for, in every situation. I am reminded of the story of the two neighbors who had their homes demolished in a tornado. The news interviewed one woman and she complained about how slow the authorities were responding and how she hadn’t had a hot meal in over 24 hours. They then interviewed her neighbor. He said, “you can replace stuff, but you can’t replace family!” He was thankful for the safety and protection of his loved ones.
These people were in exactly the same situation and one chose self-pity; the other chose gratitude.
Let’s make choosing gratitude such a habit that we can hardly remember what self-pity looks like!
“A heart of gratitude and thankfulness isn’t dependent on your bank statement, doctor’s diagnosis, or the praise you receive for a job well done. Thanklessness and grumbling — regardless of your situation, even your suffering — reflect your heart. They are sin. Spiritual amnesia is a deadly disease that threatens your faith and your joy more than any cancer. It penetrates to the core and rots your heart from within.”
-Steven Lee, from desiringgod.org blog
Is my heart thankful or thankless today? How about yours?