A Lesson about Gratitude

“Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.”
Jonah 4:5-6
What on earth does the prophet Jonah have to do with this month when we celebrate Thanksgiving?  Plenty!  Like so many of us, Jonah was blessed immensely by God—and in the passage above, we see how grateful he was for the Lord’s perfect provision in his time of need.  But also like us, Jonah quickly forgot those blessings.  In fact, when things got tough, this reluctant prophet got angry:
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”  “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”  Jonah 4:7-9
It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same individual who cried from the belly of the great fish for God to save him!  After disobeying God, Jonah desperately prayed for help, even making promises to God:  “But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone!” (Chapter 2, verse 9).  One can’t miss the irony of a man, saved from death, wishing to die because a plant perished!

Yet if I take an honest look at my life, how many times has my gratitude shifted—sometimes dramatically—because I felt slighted by someone or even by God Himself? And when I might tend to judge someone like Jonah for being unthankful after all that the Lord had done for him, couldn’t others say the same thing about me? How often have I forgotten my blessings and instead focused on a particular problem or burden?

I’m not sure how you feel, but I want this season of Thanksgiving to be different.  I don’t want to be appreciative for a day, like Jonah, and then slip into a spirit of ungratefulness when times get tough. I would love to grasp the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life and in my world.  And I’d really like to remain consistent in my attitude of gratitude—not wavering because of some circumstance that goes awry or someone who doesn’t see things my way.

Where would you like to improve when it comes to thankfulness?  How can you praise the Lord more for the good things He has done for you?  And if God gives you something you don’t want—or takes away something that you do—can you still say “praise the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b)?

The great news is that God can still use us, even when we’ve messed up on some of the simplest lessons about gratitude.  Jonah helped save Nineveh, a city of 120,000 people, despite his flaws. If the Lord can do that kind of work, who knows what He has in store for us this month—and in the months ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.”
Psalm 50:14