Have you ever had something taken away that you thought you would have forever? How does that feel? Were you able to remain thankful after losing something you took for granted?
My friend, Alfred, lost his father recently. He observed, “If I learned anything from this experience so far, it’s don’t wait for anything. Tell the people you care about that you love them, and do it often. Don’t wait to have important (conversations), and don’t wait for things in life, do them now. I spoke with my father Sunday evening, and by Monday morning he was gone.”
My friend, Kep, painfully watches his wife fight stage 4 cancer. Three months ago he assumed she would outlive him since she was the healthy eater who never smoked or drank. Turns out she might not have much time left. Kep practices gratitude by cherishing every moment and every day.
Another friend recently lost some contract work that he depended on for his livelihood. After only a day spent in despair, God more than replaced that income. It doesn’t always work out that way. Can we be thankful anyway?
My wife and I lost five vehicles in the last two years. Two were totaled in accidents, two had mechanical issues too expensive to repair relative to the value of the vehicle, and only one died a natural death. Now she and I share a vehicle for which we are extremely thankful. Sounds like a first world problem, but we took it for granted that we would always have a car for each one of us.
What do all these stories share in common?
Our tendency to take things, relationships, or life for granted can lead to unthankfulness or resentment. However, it can also cause us to cherish life all the more.
The choice is ours, sort of. Let’s explore why it’s easier to take things for granted than it is to be thankful at all times.
Taking things for granted
I think the wealthier we become the easier it is to hold tightly to our possessions and our money. Sometimes it takes a wildfire to wipe out everything for us to realize what we really care about (listen to my friend Cary discuss his experience here in episode 7 on the podcast).
Job seems to be one of the wealthiest men of his day, but when God allowed Satan to destroy all his possessions Job responded the way I hope I would:
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21 NLT)
Matt Redman wrote the classic song, “Blessed Be Your Name” based on this idea:
Taking health for granted
When we are young it’s easy to feel invincible. We take risks and do things without concern for consequences. Not everyone gets a healthy body. And while TV and advertisements paint a picture of many healthy people, the healthcare industry continues to grow because many people are sick.
But it still takes us off guard when our personal health is afflicted. What’s your natural response when you get sick?
Kep’s response challenges me. He feels genuine thanks for each day he has with his wife even though caring for her pushes him to the limit. When I get sick I become grumpy and ungrateful.
God allowed Satan to take away Job’s health in chapter 2. While I don’t know that he’s thankful, he continues to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in the midst of good and bad.
“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:9-10 ESV).
Taking work for granted
The global pandemic of 2020 presented challenges most people never expected. Millions of people lost work. Businesses have been closed. Business plans have been altered many times over.
Those who thrive during times like this see this as an opportunity and not a loss. Of course, that’s easy to say and hard to live.
I have many friends who’ve lost work or significant amounts of revenue. I’ve also seen God provide for these friends, abundantly, and beyond imagination.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:20)
If you suffer from taking people, work, possessions, or your life for granted, I encourage you to learn from Paul as he described in Phil. 4:10-14. Notice the context for a couple of verses we often quote:
“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Phil 4:10-14 NLT)
Take your gratitude journal and spend a few minutes making a list of things you would struggle to lose. Maybe it’s your health, your car, or a prized collection. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that would happen if you lost that thing. How would things change if someone gave that to you as a gift just for today?
Father, I thank you for the gifts you’ve given me that can never be taken away. I praise you for your Holy Spirit, eternal life, spiritual blessings beyond measure, and my relationship with you. May heaven be my greatest reward. Teach me to hold my possessions, relationships, and life more loosely. Teach me the secret of contentment that Paul learned. I praise you that you are not a whimsical God, but instead, you love me beyond measure. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.