Whether we call this gratitude or contentment, we can all admit that much of our daily attitude is determined by whether or not we have an internal sense of thankfulness for God’s provision and sustenance.
In his classic book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “A contented heart looks to God’s disposal, and submits to God’s disposal, that is, he sees the wisdom of God in everything. In his submission he sees his sovereignty, but what makes him take pleasure is God’s wisdom. The Lord knows how to order things better than I.” Let’s be honest: taking pleasure in all circumstances is a daily battle. Developing an internal response of thankfulness is tough for even the most mature and Godly Christian, but nevertheless we are commanded to do so.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Paul also tells us that we are to, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:18). Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
So what can we do to encourage our children to be thankful? Here are some specific tips for parents to help develop a thankful disposition in their children:
- Give thanks during prayer – Because we often pray for family, church, and friends, it’s easy for our prayers to become a long list of needs. Prayer is also a perfect opportunity to thank God for the common graces He gives: healthy bodies, teachers, daily bread, siblings, our pastor, a warm bed to sleep in, our family pet, God’s Word. Highlighting the specific things we are grateful for during prayer helps ground our children in an attitude of thankfulness.
- Write thank-you cards – Writing a hand-written thank you card is a lost art and may seem archaic when email or texting is so easy and accessible. Nevertheless, when children take time to write a heartfelt and purposeful thank-you card for a birthday gift or lunch out with Grandma, they avoid the dangerous mindset of entitlement and instead manifest thankfulness in a tangible way. Hand-written cards are worth much more than the cost of the stamp.
- Look for opportunities to serve others – Serving others necessarily forces our children to step outside of themselves when there is “nothing in it” for them. Some of our school families have taken trips to foreign countries to help minister to people in need; others find local ways to serve. Whether it’s contributing to Christmas shoeboxes for children in another country or buying a present for a friend using their own money, serving and giving shows gratitude toward others.
- Ensure your children are singing in church – This may seem a bit out of place: How does singing in church relate to thankfulness? The rich and robust lyrics of psalms and hymns reflect thanksgiving and praise (“O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing, His power and His love”). Singing is one of the most reiterated commands in Scripture, and through corporate singing we are joining with the saints in proclaiming praise and thanksgiving for what God has done through Christ on our behalf.