I went through a little bit of an anti-American phase, like a lot young people, where I liked to think of myself as enlightened and daring enough to believe in some abstract way that I would have rather been born in another culture or time. As I’ve gotten older and have actually spent time in the Third World, am married, and have two little boys, this has all changed. There are romanticized ideas of what it would have been like to live a more primitive life still rooted inside of me, but the reality is that I was fortunate enough, by no merit of my own, to be born into a society where freedom exists, opportunity is accessible, education is mandatory, and the mortality rate is low. External provisions abound, however, there are also many internal challenges our culture can perpetuate. While I consider myself lucky, I also place a lot of pressure upon myself to stay thankful.
If we are so undeniably blessed, why is it so difficult to maintain gratitude? We think about the practicalities of our lives and we can get so irritated with our inability to maintain thankfulness. Instead of satisfaction and contentment, we have an insatiable appetite for everything—materials, experiences, emotions. Building a culture of gratitude in our hearts and our homes is an act that directly confronts most of what lies outside of the heart and home. It is a never ending war.
Here’s the truth: We have been wasting our time trying to discipline ourselves in gratitude because we have not really understood why we are so needy.
This world cannot satisfy our souls. It is true what C.S. Lewis said: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Though the curtain was torn, and a way was made for us to come to God, we will never be satisfied until the day that we are actually with Him. It does not matter how much we are given, there will still always be more that we long for—our God. All that this world holds before us to quench our thirst for love and value can only crumble in the wake of what He has accomplished for us.
Left to myself, I am depraved. My flesh is grass. If I can stop getting so frustrated with myself for not being thankful, and instead see my neediness as the evidence that I am longing for something my soul was designed to long for, the yearning takes a new meaning. Instead of trying to perform gratitude, I understand more deeply what I need and the grace of God is so much more visible in my life. A working component of the Gospel is my dependence upon a Savior. I can recite my blessings every day for as long as I live, but unless I understand that this hunger inside of me that I am trying to fill has a purpose, it is only a hunger, and I will try and fill it with whatever my world tells me I need.
This Thanksgiving, celebrate your neediness. Isn’t it beautiful that we need our Savior? The Gospel is the fulfillment of that longing, and the constant working out of our faith in coming to understand the man, Jesus Christ. We can thank God for the longing inside of us because it is the force that drives us into what He is doing and what He has to share with us. A lack of gratitude may be a lack of understanding in our lives.
We are hungry, and there is only One who can feed us. Thank God.