We are commanded in the Scriptures to be grateful in all circumstances...
I've just returned from a walk, after a fairly chilled-out day, after a prolonged, exhausting period, that made me start to feel my age.
I really can't convey how much one relaxed day can do to refresh the heart & mind and return all praise to God.
I got up, walked the dog, visited in-laws, shopped for dinner, caught some rays, washed the car, wrote a blog, read a book, watered flowers, thought on Scripture, did a post, bought some gas (for the BBQ), cooked the dinner, felt quite joyful, thanked the LORD, then walked the dog - listening & singing-along to some old 80s numbers with my wife.
I've been astonished at the grace given to one of my older brethren - currently he's in hospital, undergoing treatment, off his feet but with a very thankful heart. What an example of cultivating gratefulness to emulate!
How then do we develop an increasingly thankful heart?
Firstly by looking to Christ who even in severe trials could lift his heart with thanks to God - he is exalted, as the glorified Mediator, at God's right hand, with a reservoir of thankful grace to pour out on his saints.
Second by confessing how thankless we can be - how discontent with what we have been given, or a bitter, complaining, attitude that looks for what we would like but is not good for us to get.
Third by reflecting on the birth, life, ministry, sufferings & death of Christ for us - now raised from the grave having triumphed over his griefs.
Fourth by realizing that all we have is all of grace - so ill-deserved but yet not withheld, whether gifts of creation, providence or salvation (every part of the chain of grace from election to glorification).
Fifth by enumerating all the many times, circumstances & gifts of which our lives consist...
Give thanks for the parents, spouse, children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren you have been given - along with uncles and aunts, cousins and other friends or more distant relatives: is it not most divine wisdom that places the lonely in families!
Give thanks for the skills, training, gifts, aptitudes and apprenticeships you have enjoyed along with the inclination, vocation and opening that brought you into your work.
Give thanks for the blessings you enjoy - especially those eternal, particularly those spiritual, but not forgetting those temporal: lavished with gifts from an unchanging and loving Father's heart (he will withhold no good thing from he whose walk is blameless).
Give thanks for your church - both congregations in which you grew up, came to faith, came into membership & are now in service.
Give thanks for the wider denomination, other local Christians, the global sister churches and one, holy, apostolic, Catholic, Church of God in which you find your place.
Give thanks for every reading you've ever heard, each psalm portion you've sung, all the calls to worship, countless sermons and epilogues, numerous camp addresses and amazing times of fellowship in other larger conferences - not to mention books, MP3s, CDs or tape cassettes of the Word of God taught in your own native tongue.
Give thanks for the health you enjoy (only when we momentarily or permanently lose it do we realize how much we take physical fitness and functioning for granted) - limbs that move, organs that work, memory that works, minds to think, emotions to interact and skin that is intact: truly and fearfully we are wonderfully made and sustained by the Lord: and for safety in the womb, delivery at childbirth, safety as a child, rescues from close shaves, protection from danger, recovery from surgery, treatment in illness and physical therapy after injury, remember to give thanks.
For amazing modes of transports such as automobiles, bicycles, ships, motorbikes, greyhound coaches, trains and planes to propel us at high speed to make good use of time - while keeping us warm and alive - we ought to bless the Lord.
For opportunities to serve the Lord, to testify to His truth, to share the Gospel with strangers or proclaim the glorious Gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ - these are rare, high, privileges only granted to some men and angels.
To eat, drink, dress, sleep, work, pray, talk, read, hear - how we sinfully forget that all these are precious gifts to which we have no right: we would be far more joyful if we could remember to be thankful.
For every word of every chapter of each book in the Holy Bible - the ones we've learnt or haven't or others which are our favorites: those texts which have totally changed our lives and been the means of drawing our souls to Christ or deepening our faith.
Don't forget the trials that we endure, the temptations that are permitted, the obstacles we must negotiate, the problems we're given to solve, the enemies we must fight, the persecutions that we must bear, the slander we must absorb, or the attacks which make us pray - all these are allowed, in the Most High's, most wise, sovereign, purpose of grace, to hone and refine childlike trust and cause us to cast ourselves on God so that our faith emerges as gold - times of trouble which allow us to triumph and will result in praise, glory & honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We have barely even started: in fact, let me encourage you to continue - perhaps, brother and sister, friend and fellow-believer, you have come through deep waters or have reached the point of exhaustion: precious soul, take heart, Christ has overcome the world, and as you tread the valley you will know the shepherd near and His peace, grace and joy as you grow your thankful heart.
And finally, remember, make your prayer-requests known to God - O loving, merciful, Savior, thank you for your gifts: please pour out all needed grace to grow in me an enlarging heart which pulsates with thanks.