It seems that the hardest arithmetic for us to do is count our blessings. How often have we failed to give thanks and yet God has continued to pour out His gracious blessings on us, even in difficult times?
Gratitude is to mark the life of a Christian in all seasons. We're to "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4). As Paul wrote, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).
King David certainly did this in Psalm 103. It's believed David wrote this psalm during one of the darkest times of his life. But instead of bemoaning his circumstances, he stopped and commanded his soul to thank God for all He had done: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (v. 2).
Why command your soul to give thanks? Because thanksgiving doesn't come naturally to us; it must be cultivated. One way to cultivate gratitude is to take inventory of God's blessings in your life, which David went on to do: "Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindess and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (vv. 3-5).
Both thanksgiving and ingratitude reveal the state of your heart. Complaining and being ungrateful are indicators that you don't really believe God is good. But when you thank God for His blessings in every circumstance, that indicates you believe He is good and His will is perfect.
Thanksgiving is based on the belief that God is painting a picture of your life and it's going to turn out okay. Even though things may look messy to you right now, the artist has the finished product in mind. That's how you can thank the Lord in the midst of whatever you're going through: by believing that He's going to work all things together for your good and His glory (see Romans 8:28).
"In everything give thanks," Paul said, "For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When you consistently pour out thanksgiving, you're like an evergreen tree: green in both the summer and winter, facing the heat of problems and the cold situations of departure, disease, and death, still shining for the Lord.
So ask yourself this: Does thanksgiving permeate my life? Or does complaining and ingratitude and indifference mark it? Gratitude is to be the attitude of the Christian. So I challenge you to make a list of God's benefits and blessings in your life, beginning with the most important: Him forgiving all your sins because of what Jesus did on the cross. Once you really start to think about it, you're going to find you have an awful lot to be thankful for.