Gratitude or Death

Life expectancy for Americans has been falling for the past several years, due in large part to a sharp increase in "deaths of despair" (click here). How is it that the most prosperous nation in history could be filled with so many people who are unhappy, bitter, discontent, suicidal, and generally do not care whether they live or die?

As one pastor (A. Vinet) said, "Prosperity becomes corrupt if not seasoned with the salt of thankfulness." This is a major theme in Ecclesiastes: "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?" (Eccl. 2:24-25). It is entirely possible to be surrounded by the abundance of God's gifts and not enjoy them or benefit from them at all. In fact, the blessings of God can become a snare to people who refuse to recognize the source of the blessings and begin to worship the gift rather than the Giver. Praising the Lord for His gifts is the only way to enjoy them.

Do you find it hard to enjoy your spouse or your children or your neighbor or your job? Think of something or someone that you don't enjoy and then try to think of the last time you thanked God for that person or thing. God gives us difficult relationships to sanctify us, and we can only receive the intended benefit to the extent that we thank God for the trial. Hardships and trials can only sanctify us if we glory in them (Rom. 5:1-5), or we can harden our hearts in self-pity and become increasingly bitter.

But what about the bad things in your life? In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells the story of when she and her sister Betsie were in a Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home. Their dormitory was infested with fleas, and everyone was miserable. Betsie insisted that Corrie should thank God for the fleas, because the guards would not step foot in the dormitory and the women were allowed to hold Bible studies without fear of being caught. If there's something that you can't thank God for, then thank God for the good things that He brings out of the bad things. Or, thank God for His faithfulness in the past, and pray that He will turn the bad things into good for His glory.

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