The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV)
There is something innate in all of us that wants the one thing we can’t have. We don’t have to look any further than the Garden of Eden to know that humanity lacks thankfulness on an epic scale. For that is what leads to seeking that which we do not have. We can have the world, and all the goodness therein, and yet be lured into wanting the one thing that leads to our destruction.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said to be thankful in ALL things (5:18). That has to be a typo right? How can I be thankful when my car breaks down? Well, considering that only 55% of those living in Russia, 35% in Mexico, and 6% in India own a car, I think I can find thankfulness in even owning a car. Or how about when a loved one passes away? If they were a believer in Christ, it was the best thing that could have ever happened for them! How about losing a job? That happened to me too. It turned out to be a sweet divine redirection in my life. I had my whole life mapped out, problem was, it was not the path the Lord knew was best for me. Thank you Lord for not allowing me to walk of course! How about that crippling physical injury that derails your life? Check! I have battled a near debilitating back injury for near 20 years now. It ended my competitive sports career and plagues even the most menial activities in my life today. Could it be worse? Absolutely! No matter the curve balls in life, we can find thankfulness in them all.
What causes ‘want’ in the human spirit? Being discontent. I know people who are never happy no matter the job they have, the person they’re with, the amount of money they make, the place they live, etc…I’m certain they would unhappy living in the Garden of Eden. I think most all of us would be. Why? Because we don’t know the art of being thankful in ALL things. We have lost touch with the garden that God has placed us in. If you know thankfulness in all things, bless you! It is definitely possible to have but hard to grasp. Until we can be happy with little or nothing, we will never be happy with plenty. No matter our abundance, it won’t be enough. Even if we had the whole world, and all the goodness therein, we would want more.
Adam and Eve had the best this world had to offer, before corruption existed. After God created it all, He said that it was good. Two people, with dominion over the entire Earth, full of goodness, still fell into the trap of wanting what they did not possess. I have an amazing wife, wonderful children, and live in one of the most affluent nations in the world. My garden is lush. Yet at times, I find myself wanting that which I don’t have. It can be subtle and it can be blatantly obvious. But it only happens when I am not as thankful as I should be. When I’m not being thankful, I complain, I want what I don’t have, I stress, I get worn down, and I don’t treat others as I should. With a picture like that its fair to say that the unthankful person is not a pleasant one to be around. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.
In the book of James it says that godliness with contentment is great gain. That’s because contentment exist in those who are thankful and it is the thankful person that can carry out his/her mission of loving others and loving God well. The thankful person does no wrong to another. The thankful person cannot covet. The thankful person won’t steal. The thankful person would dare not murder. The thankful person loves the sovereignty of God in all it’s outcomes and would wish no different. If there are trees in his garden, that God says don’t touch, the thankful person praises the Lord for making the danger known, and joyously avoids them.
Our enemy is after our joy. He wants to point out all the things God is ‘withholding’ from us as if God doesn’t love us enough to let us have them. He wants to keep us striving for more, wanting different, looking for those greener pastures. Satan never wants us to forget about those trees in our garden. And our gardens will go unnoticed by us if all we see are the forbidden trees. We all have different decks that we’ve been dealt in this life, all of which we should be thankful for because God allowed it to be so. I know that will rub some the wrong way because really hard things happen in life, but it is still true. In his book, Holiness day by day, Jerry Bridges makes the suggestion that our faith is measured best by our level of thankfulness towards God. I think that’s a fair assessment. After all, how can we claim to believe in a holy, good, just, and loving God who would go to the lengths of dying for us on a cross and not be thankful for all He allows in our lives.
We can feel pain in thankfulness. We can suffer tears and maintain a thankful heart. Three years ago, the Lord took my father home after he suffered a traumatic stroke. That hurt to go through! Bad! But I am so thankful God did not allow him to suffer through the remainder of his life without the use of half of his body. And I am so thankful that my dad is enjoying the fruits of his salvation in Christ. Are you hurting? Are you battling fear and doubt? Are you discontent? I challenge you my brothers and sisters: find the good in all that you’re going through. The silver lining always exists because God really does work ALL things to the good for those who love Him and live for Him like the book of Romans assures us. Our God is sovereign over us and He is good. He has a love for us that we cannot fully understand. He made us, He died for us, He’s walked with us through our lives, and He has prepared a home unlike anything we can possibly imagine. For the sake of all those things, we can be thankful in everything. Bless you brothers and sisters!
…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)