16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Between the middle of October and the end of December, the United States becomes a nation of I want. From age 3 to 103, we can hear the faint chants . . . I want this costume, I want that kind of candy, I want a new coat, I want a new sled, I want the biggest toy, I want a new TV . . . iPhone . . . Xbox . . . puppy . . . kitten . . . In the words of Buzz Lightyear, the list goes to “infinity and beyond.” It’s easy for even the most grateful of people to get caught up in the season.
Through the years I’ve discovered that this natural phenomenon is best battled by teaching the children how to be grateful. As parents, it’s a daunting undertaking, but as our kids grow from tiny ones whose wants are small and manageable to teens and young adults who have the potential to want enough that the cost could buy a small house, we soon discover the value in teaching our children how to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances.
November is one of the best times to help our children become children of gratitude instead of children of greed. Instead of asking what they want for Christmas, ask them what they are thankful for. Encourage them to dig deep as they count their blessings. Write their thanksgivings on paper and hang them on the refrigerator, and don’t forget to include your list of thanks to help them see that gratitude isn’t something that stops when you graduate from High School.
When your child is having a bad day, help them find the silver lining. Or, if there’s no silver lining, look at the goodness of God in spite of the bad day.
Perhaps you don’t have much. Begin to look at all that you do have, the love of your heavenly Father, faith to sustain you through the hard times, the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. And if you have an abundance, take time to show your children the blessing of not depending on material things. And no matter your economic status, this is a wonderful time of the year to go through the toy box and give away anything they haven’t played with in six months. Teaching them to be generous while they are grateful is a tremendous lesson.
When our children learn to rejoice over effort and accomplishment rather than rewards, we will have the assurance that they are on their way to a life of contentment. As they learn to give thanks, not for what they have, but for what Christ does in their lives no matter what they have or don’t have, we can take pride in knowing they’ll be able to be satisfied as they reach adulthood. And if along the way, those lessons become more deeply ingrained in our own thinking, the Praise God that we are never too old to be His children.