Ever since the day we heard about you, we have been praying that …..you would ….joyfully give thanks to the Father…….So then, just as you received Christ Jesus, continue to live in Him……overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 1: 9, 12

Joyful and overflowing thankfulness?  What does that look like? I picture an unceasing, bubbling fountain, abundantly gushing.  Now apply that image to a state of human thankfulness.  My everyday attitude doesn’t even come close.  The problem is that if we are not in the practice of overflowing with thankfulness, then we can’t just rev up overnight our thankfulness quotient from 0 to 60.  If it’s not yet a habit, it’s going to take time to build up speed.  When we do have days free from pain and sorrow, we ought to thank God intentionally.  A good place to begin is when we rise in the morning.  If we don’t start on a ‘good day’, the days of sorrow will overtake us with no preparation for praise.   So beginning on the problem-free days will give us opportunity to build up this habit.  Practicing thankfulness in the mornings will hopefully spill over throughout the day.

I started a small notebook where I now jot down my thanksgivings.  I write down 3 or 4 obvious ones:  Wes and his buddies made it safely to Florida.  My friend’s marriage is growing stronger.  My husband found his blackberry. But I also try to include one that has lasting value and connected to the Gospel, for instance a) the hope stored up for me in heaven is sure and secure or b)  I have access to all the grace I need.

I was challenged the other day, reading some Spurgeon.  He offers some practical help in making thankfulness a habit.  He suggests we use our memory to recall and then rehearse God’s mercies.  When we share with others God’s blessings to us, our memory grows stronger.  We need to ‘abundantly utter’ God’s favor to us.  He goes on to say, “Do not imitate some people, who, if they are prospering, make a point of not owning to it.  They will say, ‘Oh, I am doing pretty well, or…it is a fair crop.’  What robbery of God.   We talk as if we were to be pitied for living; as if we were little better off than toads under a plow or snails in a tub of salt.  We whine as if our lives were martyrdoms and every breath a woe.”

Wow!  Does that convict me!  “How are you doing, Maria” – I am likely to answer, “okay or fine”.  According to Spurgeon, we should be rehearsing and talking about God’s lovingkindness, ( ‘chesed’ in the Hebrew).  Only if we practice recounting the specifics of how His lovingkindness blesses us, will it flow out of our mouth.  This is how we are to bubble over with thankfulness.  We need to repeat and remind ourselves OUT LOUD, just like we would be working on lines of a play or preparing for a test.

Spurgeon encourages us to be perpetually cheerful, not because of our circumstances, but because of God’s innumerable mercies.   That takes care of times when circumstances ARE negative and one is feeling depressed.  Spurgeon counsels Christians NOT to show when they are down.  He quotes Matt 6:18 ‘Don’t let men know when you are fasting’.  When we pretend that showing sadness or seriousness indicates sanctity, he calls that hypocrisy!  “To conceal one’s own grief for the sake of cheering others implies a self-denying sympathy that is the highest kind of Christianity.”

However, in defense of being real, I once read about a woman dying of cancer.  When friends and family would visit and ask about her condition, she would share for one minute because they truly were interested.  Then she would shift the conversation to them, her visitors.  I think we can combine both.  If life is currently harsh, admit that, but be sure to add how God is showing His mercies, strength or wisdom.   This truly is the ‘sacrifice of praise’ as opposed to the ‘indulgence of pity’.   And I do believe we have to prepare to gush a bit regarding God’s loving kindness.  Gush?  Isn’t that too stong a verb?  Not really.  It’s only because we’re not used to gushing over God.   I don’t think it comes naturally, but we should practice it!  And think how much our neighbors will benefit if we talk abundantly of God’s goodness.  It’s not bragging on us, but on God.  And they will be correct to think, ‘If God has been merciful to my neighbor Maria, then maybe He’ll help me!’