A little book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, has become a part of my morning devotion time. A recent passage in the book encouraged readers to bring to Jesus the sacrifice of their thanksgiving. I did a bit of a double-take. Sacrifice of thanksgiving? How do those words go together? Sure enough, though, the phrase is from the Bible and can be found in Psalms 116:17. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,” writes David (probably sings David), “And will call upon the name of the Lord.”
The passage in Jesus Calling went on to describe how, when we focus on what we don’t have or on situations that displease us, our thinking becomes darkened. We nurture a blaming, complaining, and critical spirit as a way of defending and rationalizing our resentment, hurt, and anger. We deserve to be hurt or offended, we convince ourselves, and go about showing others how hurt we are. Choice theory explains that we choose our misery, and this passage seemed to strongly support that view. In a moody condition it is easy to miss the blessings in which we wallow and to take for granted the good things in life that surround us. It is also easy to obsess on fixing the problem, which is almost always involves the behavior of another person in our lives, usually someone close to us like a spouse or colleague.
As I was reading this, still wondering about the phrase ‘sacrifice of thanksgiving,’ it hit me. When we approach God with thanksgiving, when we maintain a spirit of gratitude, we become willing to let go of what we don’t have. As we remain thankful for what we do have we give up the anger and hurt and frustration over perceived offenses and unfairness. We literally offer to God the sacrifice of our thanksgiving. It isn’t much of a sacrifice when you really think about it. We give up our slights and our bruised egos and our misery and God, in His graciousness, counts it as a sacrifice. He seems to understand how hard it is for us to give up our resentments and worries.
We really do have the choice to be thankful. White reminds us that “It is within the power of everyone to choose the topics that shall occupy the thoughts and shape the character.” (ED127) We can nurture hurts and resentments, which actually feels good in its own way, or we can nurture gratitude and healing, which feels way better and which strengthens us in the process. Let’s choose gratitude and begin to sacrifice our complaints on the altar of thanksgiving.
See also Romans 8:31; Psalms 118:24; Psalms 23:1