My husband serves as the president of a large theological seminary. We have had the privilege for 25 years of embracing and equipping students and their families as they prepare for ministry in the U.S. and around the world. One such family recently launched into the mission field in Africa along with their seven young children.
One of their early prayer requests was for consistent electricity and running water.
As I considered what it must be like to have seven children and only sporadic power and water, I was convicted of the need to pray for them. But I also marveled with shame at how rarely I give thanks to the Lord that, when I turn on the faucet, clean water comes gushing out.
When I flip on a switch, there is power. On the rare occasions when water or power fail, how terribly inconvenienced I feel as I scramble to find out when they will be restored.
What it looks like to embrace contentment
I was further taken out of my self-focus when I emailed my friend to tell her that I was praying for her and got this reply:
It is amazing how surroundings change perspective. Even after simplifying life significantly, we are still living like kings in comparison, and still counted among the richest in the world. I am less comfortable than I’ve ever been, but more content and grateful.
I am realizing entitlement has been the root of my struggle with giving thanks in all circumstances. I have embraced the truth that just because I am an American doesn’t mean I am entitled to live better than anyone else. I just don’t want you or anyone to admire us as if we are to be pitied or for anyone to feel shamed for enjoying running water … as long as they know they aren’t entitled to running water either.
What a wise woman! How I thank God for her sweet attitude that slays entitlement and embraces contentment. She is not looking for admiration nor pity but she is absolutely right with her reminder that we are not entitled to anything either.
We are completely dependent on our all-powerful God, who generously gives us every gift we possess. He owes us nothing but condemnation. We owe him everything—including hearts that brim with great thankfulness.
Paul encourages us to focus our minds on everything that is good:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me— practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
So let’s be intentional about stalling unhealthy thoughts and looking for ways to turn them into grateful thoughts.
Both of my grandmothers were farmers’ wives with large families. How grateful they would have been for a microwave, a stand mixer, or an ice-maker. And what about a dishwasher? I did not even have a large family, but I am very thankful for electric dishwashers even now as an empty-nester.
After loading the dishes, I place that little soap tablet in the door and push start. Maybe I am weird, but I like to hear the tablet drop out of the compartment as it begins to do its job. When I hear it drop, I thank the Lord that I do not have to wash and dry any of those dishes.
He has allowed me to live in an era when I can push a button and the work will be done. I also seek to be mindful that although many homes have dishwashers in my country, such conveniences are unheard of in many parts of the world.
No big grins required
We do enjoy many gifts that our ancestors did not. What’s your favorite convenience? Maybe it is your washer and your dryer. As you run them for the fourth time today, are you grateful that you do not have to scrub garments on a washing board or hang wet clothes on a clothesline? Or do you grumble because, as the laundry is done and put away, there will already be newly-soiled clothes in the hamper?
I am not suggesting that we run around with big, dumb grins on our faces, thanking God for laundry soap that works in cool machines. I am suggesting that it is a wise exercise to look for ways to be grateful in the seemingly small things, especially when we find ourselves being discontent about our particular routines and circumstances.
Being thankful for the small things is a great entry into turning our thoughts around and focusing them on the Lord. If we have a mindset of gratitude even while carrying out the routine tasks of our day, we will find we have fewer thoughts of complaint and self-focus. This has been true for me. Ever since I took to heart the prayer request from my friend with seven children for just a few hours of water, I try to think differently when I turn on the faucet at home.
Adapted from Growing in Gratitude, copyright © 2018 by Mary Mohler. Used with permission of The Good Book Company.