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Pointers along the way #153

Thanksgiving from the heart
- Jacob Ninan

Some years ago I read in a book about a woman whose son was a drug addict. The author was telling her to praise God for her son, saying that as she gave thanks for the way things were, God would save her son. My first reaction was shock, wondering about how we could praise God for a drug addict. Later on I understood that the author meant well, even though he had erred on the details.

Of course we can't thank God for drug addiction, or for a son we see as a 'drug addict.' First of all God was not responsible for the son being a drug addict, and secondly we can't praise God and give Him glory for a bad situation. This kind of trying to give thanks in everything (1Th.5:18) is an example of literal interpretation without understanding the spirit. As a result our praise becomes mechanical and not from the heart. We are also dishonest with ourselves, because we are saying we are thankful to God when we are not.

God looks at the heart (1Sa.16:7), and He wants those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:23). He is not impressed with nice choral music or loud and rhythmic 'praise' songs, unless they come from the heart. He finds great delight in people who are thankful to Him, especially when they are passing through difficult times. This is what scores over Satan who claims that people are only clinging to God because of the benefits (Job.1:9-11).

If thanksgiving has to come from the heart there must be an attitude of thanksgiving in our heart. It is natural that we don't feel thankful when we are facing difficult situations. But that is only because we are focussing on those situations and not on God. When we consciously shift our focus to God, and recognise Him as being present in our situation, our attitude begins to become thankful. Then we can thank and praise Him meaningfully. Choosing to praise God even when we don't feel like it is good. But focussing on God will make it easier and meaningful.

Let's go back to the example of the drug addict. We recognise God as the One who created this boy, not as a drug addict but as someone with great potential. We praise Him for His love for this boy even though he is caught in the snare of drugs at the moment. We recognise that God is fully in control over this boy's life and can deliver him and change him as we pray for him. We thank God for Jesus who has already paid the price for the boy's redemption, and for the hope that at the right time God would help him to come to the knowledge of the Saviour. We acknowledge that there is nothing impossible for God, and we submit humbly to His leading.

When the focus moves on to God, and when we think of His love and mercy towards us and what He has done for us and prepared for us, our heart gets filled with thanksgiving, and then praise is no more mechanical.

When we choose to praise God in the midst of our problems Satan is put to shame, and God opens the way for our victory over our situations too.