Whenever Rose and I get asked about how we started dating in college, she loves to take the opportunity to tell everyone about how she did not like me at all when she first got to know me. I was cocky and arrogant, and she picked up on the fact that I acted like I was better than everyone else. The reality was I was hurting and I used that cocky, arrogant persona to cover up the pain I had inside. My identity was bound up with that hurt and pain. The way I interacted with those around me, the mask that I put on, was to cover up how I really felt about life and myself.
Most of us are able to be thankful about things for one day a year, but very few of us live a life of thanksgiving. Especially in the western world, it should be fairly easy for us to find things to be thankful for, yet we most of us deal with being unhappy most of the rest of the year. Why this disconnect between the day of Thanksgiving and living a life of thanksgiving?
I believe that the core of who we are, our identity, decides what kind of lives we’re going to choose to live. For some of us, being a mom or dad, a husband or wife, a great student, a great athlete, or a great musician, makes up much of how we see ourselves in this world. I call this purpose driven. We are driven by a purpose we fulfill.
For others of us, the millions of orphans, or possibly the water and food crises around the world make up much of how we see the world. And this describes many in my generation, we are cause driven. This thing that drives us ultimately determines how we interact with the people around us. It determines whether on any given day we’re happy or sad, depending on how our purpose or cause is going that day.
Even though it’s commonplace for us to be driven by a specific purpose or cause, I believe God desires for us first to be identity driven that gives us our purposes.
So what does this have to do with thankfulness? To me, true thankfulness is found in a new identity, an identity most of us struggle to ever find because we’re so lost in the other identities we’ve created for ourselves or that pain others have caused us created for us. Romans 5:6-8 says,
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When we think about what it means to be truly thankful, I believe it all starts with identities centered on God’s love for us. God’s love for us is eternal, it is constant, and it is holy, perfect love.
Most of our identities are found in something we do: “I am a good husband.” Some of our identities are found in the ways we’ve failed: “I am not a good husband.”
God’s love gives us a third way, a much better way. Our identity found in him is not in something we do or don’t do well. It is found as something we are. We are loved by God. Even despite all our failures, sins, mistakes, he still says to us, ‘While you were sinners, while you continued to let me down, I still died for you.”
Living a life of thanksgiving is found in having an identity based on being loved by God. True thankfulness can only come from that place.
Psalm 136:26 says, “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”