As we grow older and perhaps a little wiser, we not only find out that a thankful heart is a happy heart, but we realize that a thankful heart is something we have to fight for. As we begin raising children or even as we seek to encourage the children in our spheres of influence, we see the value of teaching this responsibility early on.
A grateful spirit doesn’t come naturally for children, but it is also something that doesn’t come naturally for adults. If we let ourselves go unchecked, a selfish and entitled spirit is what flows out. Jeremiah 17 tells us our hearts are deceitful, but Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We not only guard our hearts, but we work hard to cultivate a thankful spirit.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The person who has forgotten to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.” The natural pull of our hearts is to be sleepy in thankfulness, but we have to fight against it, and the best way to teach our children this is to model it for them.
We need to always be fine-tuning the art of thankfulness in our own souls. In our home we say, “thank you,” often. We say thank you to God, and we say thank you to each other. We want to teach our girls how to be thankful in hard seasons as well as easy ones. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s God’s will for us to be thankful!
I love that we aren’t asked to be thankful for all situations, but God’s will is for us to be
thankful in them. Why? First and foremost, God is good. We can be thankful no matter what is happening in the moment, because He is good, He loves us, and He is in control. One of the best things we can instill in our children is the worldview that God is good even when our circumstances aren’t.
Secondly, there is always something we can be thankful for within the trial. Yes, your child’s teacher treated him unfairly, but he can be thankful for parents who love and understand him. Pastor Kevin Gerald explains this kind of living and says that we have to change the way we see life to see God’s goodness in it all.
Thirdly, we have to change the way we view our pain. My husband calls it seeing our lives through the lens of faith, not only looking at life with the naked eye. We must not only see things for what they are, but we must learn to see what they could be. As we ask God to help us see how He sees, He will help us view our pain as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
As we fight for thankful living in our own hearts, we will simultaneously teach our little ones to live the same way. We will set them up to see not just the here and now, but the possibilities of what could be, and to have a heart filled with gratitude in every situation. You just might overhear a child saying to another, “Thank you for helping me, sister! I couldn’t have done it without you!” Or you might melt when you hear your child pray, “Thank You, God, for heaven, and thank You, God, for loving me.”