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Thanking God for the abstract

I was reading Lesson 123 today, “I thank my Father for His gifts to me.” What struck me in that lesson, as it always does, is that the list of things to be grateful for to God is so not what you’d expect. You’d expect that we are supposed to mentally scan our lives and come up with specific things that we believe came from God and that we are glad are there.

But instead, we are supposed to be grateful for a list of very abstract things. Here is my attempt at capturing that list: 

  1. That God has not left us to our own devices, has not abandoned us, has not left us to the self we made, has given us His Voice to speak His saving Word to us
  2. That He still loves us, that His Love is always shining on us and will always shine on us
  3. That our identity is still the infinitely valuable Self He gave us, and that we haven’t managed to change it into the worthless self we made
  4. That we are saved, that God has saved us
  5. That we have a function in salvation, a purpose in God’s plan, to fill 

What I liked about reading this list this morning is that I no longer feel so out of sync with it. In years past I found it hard to identify with. When I thought of being thankful to God, I thought of what I mentioned earlier: specific things in my life that I felt came from Him. 

But now, I find that I really do feel grateful for most of the things on that list (with the exception of #4, I’d say), that those things really do matter a great deal to me and are a conscious source of comfort in my daily life. That feels like progress. I think gratitude over specific gifts is great, but if it doesn’t go beyond the specific gifts, then that almost implies that God matters to us only insofar as He manages to send us the stuff we really care about. Ideally, our gratitude would go beyond that to the relationship itself, and to the changeless gifts that are contained in that relationship.

So we might want to use that list above as a kind of litmus test. To what degree can we actually identify gratitude for the things on that list as a conscious source of comfort in our daily lives?