Thankful Part 2 – Circumstantial Thankfulness

Thanks for the Blessings

As I started the Thankful Series last week, I wrote about our human need for someone to be thankful to! Some people thank their lucky stars, some thank the Universe, some thank “the breaks”, but we all realize that there are times when things go well, when it all seems to break our way, when we’re blessed so much more than we deserve, that we simply need someone to thank. It’s a glad thing for people of faith, for believers, that we can be thankful to God!

I’ve begun recognizing as I’ve focused on Gratitude and Thankfulness that I find stages or qualities of Thankfulness in myself. I’m talking about:

    • Circumstantial Thankfulness – Thanks for the blessings!
    • Comparative Thankfulness – Well, I guess it could be worse!
    • Thankfulness In All Things – In Everything Give Thanks
    • Whole Life Thankfulness – I’m Thankful for my life!

I’m becoming convinced it’s not necessarily a linear progression from one kind of Thankfulness to the other. It can be parts of all of them, or it can be one kind for one situation and another kind for another. And it can be most or all of these at the same time for me.

In Fact, as I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been processing through so many different levels of Thankfulness!

Health Update:

1) Last Thursday I had my “one-month of treatment” cancer check-up. My oncologist told me that the numbers that should go down are beginning to go down and a couple of the numbers we want to go up are climbing. He said, “What we wanted to happen is happening. This helps us toward a good prognosis!”

2) Jean had a successful surgery to repair her broken leg/ankle on Monday, May 18. She’s recovering well at home with minimal pain so far. She has more mobility than any time in the two weeks since the break occurred. It’s looking good! Our daughter Melissa and her husband Colin have been looking after us. They’ve been coming over to help get Jean out of the house and into the car when we need to go for medical stuff. Our daughter Stephanie is with us this week to help out and give me a break. Son-in-law Philip set up our Alexa so Jean can reach me in any room in the house from her headquarters in the living room. Life is good!

So many of you have written, texted, phoned, and emailed words of hope and encouragement! Many have given financially to help with the unexpected expenses of my illness and Jean’s injury! A Meal Train team from our church has been providing evening meals most days. Please be patient with us if we’re slow to acknowledge and respond. Your responses have been overwhelming in a very good way! We love and appreciate you all very much!

This week’s blog post is going to focus on Circumstantial Thankfulness – “Thanks for the Blessings”. It’s a good starting place, because blessings are usually easy to identify and they’re really nice to receive! They make us glad. They make us blessed. They make  us, well, Thankful!

Here are some verses from Psalm 30, written by Shepherd/King David to praise and thank God for his blessings. Let’s see what David has to say….

1 I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. 3 You brought me up from the grave, O LORD. You kept me from falling into the pit of death. 4 Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:1–5 NLT)

How’s it going, David? OK so far! I had some challenges, in fact some really scary stuff happened and I prayed and asked God for help and he fixed everything! Should be alright from here forward. Some bad guys (my enemies) were out to get me, but God could tell that I’m a good guy and they were bad to the bone, so he rescued me!

This is genuine thankfulness! David faced some big challenges and God helped him. Everything was going great! The one possible problem I see here is that when we stay too long in Circumstantial Thankfulness, we can begin to get the idea, and even project that idea to others, that we got the good stuff because we deserve the good stuff. It’s too easy to start thinking, “Look at me! No wonder I’m blessed! I am, in fact, the most blessable person I know!”

Our attitude can take on overtones of: “Be good like me and trouble, if it comes, won’t last long!  Here’s how you do this stuff.  Glad I figured this out.  Now we’ve got it pretty much under control!”

It’s really good to be thankful for God’s blessings! I remember a line from an old hymn we sang at church years ago: “Count your many blessings, Name them one by one, Count your many blessings, See what God has done!” Counting our blessings, being specific about the ways God has blessed us, and acknowledging that our lives are made rich by the goodness of God helps us in so many ways. It moves us from scarcity thinking to abundance thinking. It moves us from focus on what we don’t have to what do we have. It makes us thankful for blessing and it increases our faith for God’s provision. It leads from thankfulness for what God has done to praise for who God is to us. It’s good!

But the caution I see here is two-fold: If we are only thankful when the blessings overflow, 1) We can get stuck in Circumstantial Thankfulness where we are only thankful when everything is great, and 2) We can develop an Entitlement Attitude.

When we develop an Entitlement Attitude, we can start thinking: I’m one of the good guys! I’m obviously pleasing God. Look how he’s blessing me. If I just keep doing these things I’m doing, if I push all the right buttons and check all the right boxes, nothing bad can happen.  God is obligated to keep me from harm or loss. Entitlement is about what I feel I deserve. Gratitude is about God’s goodness, mercy, and grace!

Father, it’s about you and your unfailing love, not about me and my entitlement! I’m grateful for what your love and grace has provided, not what I thought you owed me! And I’ll praise you now simply because you’re good and you’re worthy!

In real life, we do get good stuff. We receive blessings. We’re thankful for those blessings. But in real life we also lose things, have unfulfilled expectations, and experience hurts and disappointments (remember the “Not Disappointed” series?). We experience difficulties in relationships, finances get tight, sickness comes calling.

Entitled people are neither truly happy nor fully content! Why? Because entitlement says, “I don’t deserve the bad things – I do deserve the good things – and if I don’t get what I do deserve or I get what I don’t deserve I’m unhappy!” Entitled people seem to forget that God gave us the message(s) of the Psalms partly to remind us that “God is Good, but Life is Hard, but God is Good!”

Friends, I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just realizing I can’t live a healthy and vibrant life if I feel slighted or let down when I don’t get what I think I deserve…

And remember, I’m not ranking these kinds of Thankfulness in terms of better and worse! And I’m not treating them as a linear progression from Circumstantial to Whole Life Thankfulness. I believe they’re all legitimate ways to be Thankful and Gratitude-full.

    • Circumstantial Thankfulness – Thanks for the blessings!
    • Comparative Thankfulness – Well, I guess it could be worse!
    • Thankfulness In All Things – In Everything Give Thanks
    • Whole Life Thankfulness – I’m Thankful for my life!

The truth is:  God loves us not because we are good, but because God is good!

And here’s the corollary to that: God loves us just as we are, not just as we ought to be, because we’ll never be just as we ought to be!

In my next post we’ll look at Comparative Thankfulness. Like Circumstantial Thankfulness, it has some strong points and some weaker points, and we’ll explore that together. Stay tuned!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.


One Reply to “Thankful Part 2 – Circumstantial Thankfulness”

  1. Expressing gratitude to God and others creates an atmosphere of encouragement, acceptance and value.
    Want to positively influence others? Be one who notices little blessings and give thanks.
    Today I was meditating on and thanking God for fingernails!

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