One of my lovely daughters is blessed with a forelock. That is to say, she has a patch of thick hair from above her forehead that grows forward rather than backward. Even as an infant she began resembling Highland cattle, and I was tying her hair back from a very early age so we could see her eyes.
The other morning, as I was trying to quickly get through brushing and tying up the various girls’ hair (I have on average 3-4 daughters who still require help), I got to this particular daughter. She clearly and politely requested only two ponytails, but I knew from experience that this would not work with her particular head. The forelock was a factor and needed its own individual tie. So I made a small ponytail at the top of her head to wrangle the forelock into control, then incorporated it into the two larger ponytails that she had asked for.
Then she realized what I had done.
In short: Devastation.
I had used THREE and not TWO hair ties, disregarding her request.
Huge eyes welled up with tears, little shoulders hunched, lower lip out, while gusty sobs began, showing just how much I had disappointed her.
Staring at her in mild astonishment, I watched as enormous tears streamed down her face. She dropped to the ground and wept, apparently inconsolable. This continued for about thirty seconds. Which seemed a lot longer than it was.
Finally, with some moderate impatience (yes, I’m not a perfect mom), I said, “Can you please just stop crying and say ‘Thank you’?!”
She needed her hair tied up. I knew what was going to work best for her and what would last throughout her busy day playing, and I had given her a very cute hairstyle. She had no real reason to cry, and should instead be grateful for my loving care.
Then it struck me: I think this is something God wants to say to me sometimes:
“Can you please just stop crying and say, ‘Thank you’?!”
I have my idea of how something should go. I have my plan that I think is the right way, the perfect path, the only option I find acceptable. And I’ve asked Him for it politely, or just merely expect it because it’s the thing that will make me happy. Since I see no reason why it shouldn’t happen, I calmly await the certain delivery of my (ahem) “request”.
Then when I get something different, or it’s not what I had hoped, or I walk through unexpected loss or hurt, I am devastated by the pain and disappointment.
But knowing Who God is, knowing that He knows infinitely more than I, that He understands all the microscopic nuances of my life and its outcomes, I am showing a blatant lack of trust in my Father when I don’t say, “Thank you.”
Even if it wasn’t what I wanted.
Even if it makes me sad, or I don’t understand, or I wish it were different.
Those feelings can be there, but I can still choose to declare my gratitude to the Father who is working for my good because I love Him and I know I am given a purpose in His Kingdom (Romans 8:28).
The command to “give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NLT) leaves no room for my feelings, as much as I may rebel and writhe with the apparent callous indifference to them.
If I want to be obedient to God’s Word, this is a direct choice I must make, regardless of how I feel.
Easy? More like terrifying and incredibly difficult.
Yet I must draw a line in the sand and decide in my heart whether or not I believe that my Creator God is truly the kind, all-knowing, always inherently loving Father the Bible says He is, and thank Him for what He has allowed to be for me and my loved ones.
Or I don’t, and thereby deliberately choose to disobey this clear command.
This is not comfortable.
This is not a placid, soft, warm-and-squishy kind of thankfulness when I’m feeling happy and things are going my way.
This is where my trust in this God I cannot see becomes the granite of reality and I obstinately choose to believe Him and His Word over my emotions, my experiences, and even my own understanding.
Like my little girl, I need to choose to stop crying and say “Thank you.” This is where the sacrifice comes in my “sacrifice of thanksgiving”.
As King David said, “I will not present offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)
May God graciously grant us the courageous hearts and flinty-faced grit to be thankful for truly everything.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23, NLT)
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on East Willow Place