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December 4, 2014
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Contentment and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

How content am I in God’s love?

It is so easy for me to compare myself to others: their skills and abilities, success, popularity, etc. This frequently leads to a selfish desire to have what they have because I’m dissatisfied with myself and God’s blessings in my life.

When my life circumstances are stressful and difficult, it’s so easy for me to think how unfair it is–how unfair God is because I deserve something better. I complain, usually to myself, sometimes to others and on rare occasions directly to God.

If I say I believe God is the rightful author and authority over my life and circumstances, if I believe God genuinely wants what is eternally best for me and all those I know, if I believe God’s grace truly is sufficient, what does my discontent actually reflect?

These are convicting questions I’m struggling with since reading the first chapter of Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality (1971). He writes, “When I lack contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to him” (p. 9). Too often for me, both are true.

Schaeffer links this discontent to the lack of thankfulness and coveting–an ungoverned selfish longing for something (Rom. 1:21; Ex 20:17). This is the internal, fallen state I share with the rest of humanity. “When I do not love the Lord as I should, I am coveting against the Lord. And when I do not love my neighbor as I should, I am coveting against him” (Schaeffer, 1997, p. 8).

Curiously, giving thanks (Eph. 5:4) is imitating God and walking in love like Jesus walked (Eph. 5:1, 2). When I am thankful about God’s work in my life, I’m acting like and become like Jesus–mirroring God in my life. So, it’s not surprising that we are commanded to give thanks for all things (Eph 5:20). It’s an intentional choice to find aspect’s of God’s grace in everything and to respond to it with thankfulness. Psychologists call this “reframing.” Two-thousand years before there were psychologists, the Apostle Paul described it as having the attitude which was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5-8), so we can rejoice (give thanks for God’s grace) and be at peace in spite of our circumstances (Phil 4:4-9).

C. S. Lewis helps me here when he writes, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” James describes it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

So, am I content in God’s love? No, not yet, but I’m learning that the practice of thanks giving is the discipline of a content life and the antidote for covetousness, in-spite of my circumstances.

Blessings,
Bart

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Bart Fowler
Bart Fowler
Dr. Fowler is a licensed psychologist and the executive director of CHARIS Counseling Associates. He is devoted to helping people thrive instead of just survive so they may live out the fullness of what God intends for their lives. He may be reached at 360-891-2000 x109.