Extreme Thanks

I Get It

You have an attitude of gratitude, or at least you’re working on it. You’ve read books and articles, or heard sermons or lectures on being thankful and how it can affect your attitude and that of people around you. Maybe you’ve heard a pod-cast on the psychological benefits of thankfulness. Much of what is taught is simply in the context of saying thank you to other people, without any reference to deity.

Chances are, you’ve even taken the next step, of learning to be thankful in any situation. Something goes wrong, so you look for things in that situation that you can still be thankful for. I’ve walked through that process. So, I get it. I really do.

When I read Charles and Frances Hunter’s book, Praise the Lord Anyway, I began to learn to praise the Lord in every situation, in every circumstance. It’s what led to the experience I shared in Extreme Gratitude about being stranded at a mall in Cleveland, Ohio, on a business trip. You can read the full story in the book—short version: My employer had lied to me about arrangements. I was furious. As I walked around the mall, fuming in anger, the Lord reminded me to praise Him anyway. As I began to begrudgingly say “praise the Lord” it only took a couple of minutes before I began to relax and let go of my anger. The praise began to be more real, and I even began to sing praises. Then the solution, that I couldn’t see through my anger, came to me and the situation was resolved within half an hour.

At the time, was I thankful for being stuck in Cleveland? Was I thankful my boss had lied to me? Nope. Not at all. Giving thanks for all things just didn’t even make sense. “In everything” was doable. “For everything” not-so-much. That was carrying it too far, a little too extreme.

Over time, Bible verses that dealt with thankfulness or “all things” or both kept grabbing my attention. Things began to click. The relationship between the two began to become more evident. Not only that, how these ideas fit in with other aspects of the Christian life became more clear. Lessons about various truths began to mesh. No longer were they separate lessons on knowing Him, salvation, spiritual growth, resting in the Lord, the cross, the resurrection…. They were laced together in a beautiful tapestry by the expression of faith from a heart that overflowed with thanksgiving.

I began to learn to give thanks for all things! It was an expression of faith in an absolutely faithful God. God would use all things, this thing to bring glory to Himself, and to take me deeper into Him, to let me experience more of Him, and to mold me into the image and character of Christ Jesus. I could be thankful, not just for the results, but for the thing (good or bad) that God was using to produce those results.

Having cancer pushed me to test what I was learning. It was a struggle to be thankful for cancer, for chemo, for radiation, for fatigue, and everything else that went with the experience. Trish and I held to the truths we were learning as tenaciously as we could and God saw us through and brought us to a deeper relationship with Him, and a deeper conviction that what we had learned and shared with others, really was valuable and true. Last year’s Covid experience brought us into even more wonderful experience and fellowship with Him.

Through these, and other things, we found the peace in the storms that we longed for. We experienced our loving Heavenly Father in ways, and at levels, we never had before. Here is joy. Here is a deeper experience of His presence. Here is an ever richer peace. We entered more fully into His love, His fullness, and His rest.

I get it. An attitude of gratitude is easier. “In everything” seems more reasonable. But there is so much more! It’s still an on-going process, and I’m loving the journey! You don’t have to feel bad because of what of what you don’t know. God is responsible for your growth, and He is doing His part to grow and mature you and mold you in the image of His Son. There is always more to learn, and He is faithful to keep to taking us deeper and deeper into His truths.

Oh!  How my heart longs to show the world the magnificent power, joy, peace, victory, rest and deep experience of Our Lord and His love and His presence that comes from knowing that God is absolutely faithful, and from responding to Him in faith expressed in giving thanks—always, for all things.

Extreme gratitude takes the idea of gratitude and thanksgiving from just being a way of thinking to … to what? How can I say it concisely? It really is absolute faith in an absolutely faithful God, expressed through giving thanks for everything (knowing each thing is part of all things), because your faith convinces you that this thing(!)—whatever it may be, good or bad, wonderful or horrible—is but a tool in the hand of an extremely loving Father Who will use it for His glory and your good. This is a vital, crucial, life-changing message. It has implications for every other lesson, doctrine, and Christian experience about which you may study or teach.

So, start where you are. If for now, that’s an attitude of gratitude, it’s at least a start. If it’s being thankful “in everything,” but “for everything” is still not something you can embrace, that’s okay. Just start, and trust God to take you as far as He is willing to, and to reveal His love and His presence in ways you cannot yet imagine.