First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It is God’s will for us to be a continually thankful people. How is it possible to do this? Thankfulness is an act of your will. I believe that having a “reference point” in your mind is the secret to being thankful. A reference point is a predicament that’s worse than what you are currently experiencing. You can become thankful in any situation if you will compare it with a worse set of circumstances. Here are three mental reference points:
Reference Point #1: Trading places with a less fortunate person.
What if God made you swap places with a less fortunate person whenever you complained? Perhaps you’re complaining about your car that keeps breaking down. Now you get to swap places with a poor person in another country who would love to have your old clunker—and you get to ride a burro to your next destination. In your mind think about what it is like to be a person in a less fortunate situation and you’ll suddenly become thankful for your situation.
Reference Point #2: Memories of doing without.
I know a man has always been thankful for his shoes. When I asked him why, he said, “When I was a boy during the Depression, my parents couldn’t afford to buy me new shoes. I put cardboard in my shoe bottoms whenever they got holes. When I walked through rain and snow, I had to keep replacing the cardboard. I’ve always been thankful for shoes because I’ve never forgotten wearing those shoes with holes in the bottom.” That’s a mental reference point.
Reference Point #3: Losing blessings and recovering them.
Sometimes we don’t realize what we have until we lose it. My father had radiation treatments for throat cancer and lost his ability to taste food. His inability to enjoy a meal made eating a dreaded duty. After eating flavorless food for over a year, he sat down to eat dinner and was shocked that his taste had returned! It was the best meal he had ever eaten because he had a reference point—losing a blessing and then recovering it. You don’t have to actually lose the blessing if you’ll just grasp what it is like to be without it and then thank God for it.
Can you think of some reference points? Now try to remember them in every difficult situation and you will find yourself becoming more thankful.
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