Surprised by thanks

Pastors can feel approved of by God when things go ‘well’, and sidelined by God when things go low or slow. There’s an old song with a solution.

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There’s an old song that we don’t sing much any more:

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

There’s a reason we don’t sing it, of course.  For a previous generation it became an empty cliché, and just another way of saying “Oh, well…” in a rather resigned sort of way.  ‘Count your blessings’ was just another way of saying ‘Look on the bright side.’

And I expect the tune was pretty rubbish, too.

But, but, but.  There’s a biblical wisdom in those two lines which we forget at some cost.

When things are going well we can find ourselves being generally ‘thankful’ but without being specific.  And that can easily slide into feeling cheerful because it’s sunny, or the coffee is good, or you got out bed on the right side.

Putting the Lord at the centre of that means we move from feeling cheerful to being thankful.  And that means we don’t think we are remotely responsible for all the good things God has done.  So if things are going well, make a list.

Because when things are going badly – or even just ‘meh’ – we find ourselves being thankless.  Not consciously ungrateful, of course, but generally low and slow.

Putting the Lord at the centre of that means we move from feeling vaguely thankless to being specifically thankful for his blessings, one-by-one.  And that means we don’t think we are remotely deserving for all the good things God has done.  So if things are going poorly, make a list.

Which means that knowing who ‘the Lord’ is, is critical.  Because there’s no shortage of vague and sappy ‘be happy’ advice on the web.  But linking our gratitude to the gospel changes our perspective.  Any idiot can be grateful for good health when they have it, or money when they have it, or friendship. But what do you give thanks for when there is suffering, poverty and loneliness?

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thess 5:14-18

‘God’s-will-in-Christ-Jesus’ rather changes the perspective, doesn’t it?  Whatever life throws at us is God’s tool to make us more Christlike.

Pastors in particular can feel approved of by God when things go ‘well’, and sidelined by God when things go low or slow. Give thanks, friends, specifically, for what God has given you and the people you serve.

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

1 comments on “Surprised by thanks”

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