This past Christmas, my wife and I received a card from a dear friend expressing thanks for support we had offered during a difficult time.
The card featured the title Gratitude and in it, our friend described how he was grateful for the friendship we’ve had the pleasure of sharing over the last few years.
It was not long after that I heard a program on the radio detailing the significance of gratitude and the challenge of giving thanks.
It made me think of a time when I was about 14 years old and wasn’t very happy – or thankful – for a significant Christmas gift my parents gave me.
Wanting a Nintendo video game system that year, I had made my desires known to my parents for quite some time.
I made sure I behaved exceptionally well in the months leading up to Christmas, so as to earn my parents’ attention and convince them during their gift purchasing process.
When it came time to distribute the presents, my family huddled around the Christmas tree for my Dad to do his customary routine of passing out gifts to each of us.
I had noticed a large box under the tree, wrapped and containing my name on a tag, and so I had a strong suspicion I’d be getting the Nintendo I had been wanting.
Waiting until the last of the gifts, my Dad decided to finally call my name for that big box.
After ripping off the wrapping paper, my facial expression quickly turned from a look of awe and excitement to one of confusion and anger.
The gift? New hockey pants.
Sure, I loved hockey and had played in organized leagues much of my life. And yes, I likely could have used new pants, although the used pair I had been given a few years before were working fine, thank you very much.
But I really wanted that Nintendo and was both mad and terribly disappointed I didn’t get it.
What a perfect example of how in society, we so often receive gifts and instead of being grateful, we complain about them and ask for something different.
How often do we act in this way when God gives us gifts?
Perhaps we want some nice weather during the summer in order to enjoy the beach, but then we grumble about how it’s too humid.
Maybe we pray long and hard to meet a person and fall in love, and then devote so much attention to that person’s faults.
How about a teenager blessed with beautiful freckles sprinkled on her face regretting her appearance because the person featured on the magazine covers has “perfect” skin?
What of the kid who won’t accept the clothes or cell phone his parents buy him as a birthday or school graduation gift since they aren’t the latest brand name standard?
If we are to always look past God’s blessings and offerings to us, we will surely never be able to fully appreciate them.
While it may seem farfetched due to social temptations and messages from popular culture, goodness can be lived when we focus on what we have from God instead of yearning for something bigger or brighter.
So rather than griping about what God doesn’t give us, perhaps we can stand to concentrate more on what He does provide. (Psalm 107:8-9)
In demonstrating a little more thanks to the One who loves us, we might just be able to better apply – and reap the benefits of – all of those many gifts God bestows upon us. (Jeremiah 30:19)
Once we’ve learned how to live with such an attitude of gratitude, the game of life can be played that much more easily.