Pop psychology counsels us to focus on reasons to be happy that help us to feel good about ourselves. It is a fleeting and often glib exercise. True thankfulness is very different. It is not motivational life-coaching but acknowledging our utter dependence on God. It magnifies God (Psalm 69:30) as a crucial part of God-centred living. This is why Scripture frequently commands us to be thankful, no matter what our circumstances may be (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
When James Fraser of Brea came to reflect on his life it was important to take a wide view of the general mercies of God. Resting and being thankful in God’s goodness to us is a very biblical activity (Psalm 77:11). Fraser came up with 14 different personal reasons to be thankful to God, perhaps not at all fit with your experience but many will. Many of these reasons relate to his spiritual condition not just outward mercies – the prosperity of our souls is the first priority (3 John 1:2). Here is an updated extract.
1. My Health
I find reason to bless the Lord for continued health.
2. My Education
I have reason to bless the Lord for the mercy of good education. Wherever He cast my lot, I was given means that worked for my good. I did not see many examples of those who were wild. The Lord used those whom I was with to take some effort for good with me. Though this did not convert me, yet it helped prepare me for it.
3. Not Leaving Me in False Hopes
The Lord drove me out of all my false places of rest and refuges of lies. If I had continued in them, I would have perished forever. What a mercy that the Lord revealed to me my condition, the vanity of trusting in duties, my own inability to save myself and the distance and enmity between God and my soul!
4. Sparing Me
The Lord has borne with much from me: surely more than from any other. How often did I provoke Him to send me to my place! He spared me notwithstanding my blasphemy, my sabbath-breaking and openly breaking my vows. Despite my sinning against light, backsliding, cursing even in a lie, profanity, mocking in duties, intractableness He spared me. Who has or could have borne with so much as the Lord? Should I not therefore love Him? They “love much, because much is forgiven.”
5. Persevering with Me
Oh, the great effort and cost the Lord has taken concerning me! What efforts:
- in my first education
- in conversion
- after conversion
- in recovering out of backsliding
- by afflictions, trials and convictions, mercies of all sorts and waterings public and private
What a constant suitor He has been for my heart! What day has there been in which there has not been some message or other? Surely He is in very good earnest with me. He has followed me constantly without interruption.
6. Giving Me Grace
In bestowing saving grace on my soul; washing me from nature, sin, Satan and hell:
- renewing His image on my soul;
- enlightening mine eyes, quickening my dead soul, changing me completely, giving me rest
- admitting me to fellowship with Himself;
- entering in a covenant with me;
- taking me from my sinful ways and courses, and conforming me to His ways, in heart, speech, and practice;
- making an inward, blessed, true, and universal change (differing from hypocrites and worldly professing Christians).
7. Healing My Backsliding
In recovering me out of a backslidden condition, after carelessness, complacence and departing from God, until I had ruined myself again. I was, as it were, “twice dead” and when I was at the last gasp, He pitied me, recovered me, engaged me in His service. He kept me through His power and goodness (notwithstanding many oppositions) until I at last recovered. He set me on a “rock higher than I.” O what cost and expense He went to in my recovery! He would not let me die at a distance from Him, but by afflictions and sore trials called me home to Him.
8. Bringing Me through the Wilderness
Mercies in a wilderness condition. When I was but weak, He condescended to my weakness. Though
He was “the high and lofty One,” how He bore my behaviour, my murmurings, my faintings, my lustings, my impatience, my dulness, my deadness, my unbelief. He never left me for all these things, but was ever with me. He supplied all my needs and many a time revived my fainting soul. He carried me as an eagle her young ones and there was “no strange god with Him” at all. He never left me until He brought me to a large and fruitful land. O the care He had of me in the great wilderness, preserving me and carrying me through. This was a wonderful mercy!
9. Giving Me Talents
I am obliged unto the Lord for talents. He did not create me void of understanding but gave me some capacity to be of service to Him. He has instructed me in the wonderful things of His law, made me know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. And what shall I say? My natural abilities were very greatly helped and advanced by grace. Through His “precepts I have attained to understanding.”
10. Keeping Me from Apostasy
I acknowledge with all thankfulness the great mercy of God in keeping me on His side in this evil day. I have been preserved in this general apostasy. I have been rallied to His side, under His standard, against the dragon making war in heaven against the Lamb. How many have been destroyed by profanity, error, vanity, formality, sloth, and worldliness, or else rendered useless? He has kept me from the destroying pestilence. He has kept me in life and privileged me through grace to be a clear witness for Him against the dragon and the tendencies of these times. He has enabled me to do some little thing, at least to show my good-will.
11. Upholding Me
By upholding me with his visitations,” innumerable times. “Restoring my soul” to life, preserving “my feet from falling, and mine eyes from tears.” O the many loving refreshing visitations I had from Him when under deadness, confusion, distraction, sorrow, depression! He has been as the clear shining sun after the rain. These have been the means by which I have been kept in life; these are His favours, in these days of famine feeding me and keeping me in life.
12. Delivering Me
Many times He has delivered me out of hell itself; when the sorrows of death compassed me about, when
overpowered with despair, He brought me out of the great and terrible pit. When all other means and friends failed, and neither could nor would help, the Lord Himself stepped in. He calmed all these terrible storms, when I could not bear them any longer. Neither was I ever in any extremity from which He did not help me, even out of great and sore troubles.
13. Mercy in My Afflictions
Surely He has afflicted me “in faithfulness”. It is a mercy (a covenant mercy) to be under His discipline. He has supported me in all my afflictions. When I have been a sign, a wonder, and a terror to all friends and acquaintances. When I have been left by friends and relations, and ungratefully used by them, then did “the Lord take me up,”. He gave me shelter and food and drink “that the world knew not of;” and what shall I say? By His own hand, I was “at last delivered me out of them all,” at least out of the most pressing. He has delivered me from all dangers, fears, snares and sorrows.
14. Special Favour to Me
All these are magnified by these circumstances:
(a) That the Lord has visited me with special love, right-hand blessings, grace, Christ, and sanctification.
(b) The Lord Himself is eminently seen in them. He lets no one do me good except Himself, especially in great deliverances. the Lord brings about everything in a wonderful way.
(c) I see them all stamped with free grace, and the motto on them is: “Not for your sakes, but for My name’s sake, and because of the Lord Jesus.” I see them all proceeding from the free grace and love of Christ Jesus.
(d) He has singled me out of all my tribe and kindred, and passed by them all and chosen me for Himself.
(e) The Lord is seen universally in all these things. He does all things most excellently for me; not in one or two things, but in everything. He has “wrought all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12)
(f) The Lord is constant in His kindness; it is not by fits and starts. He loves those whom He loves to the end. His love is a constant love, He “never takes away His lovingkindness.”
(g) The Lord sanctifies me by all His mercies and draws me nearer to Himself. I am brought to know more of God by them. My heart is warmed in love and affection towards Him by the remembrance of these. Experience of these brings me to come to Him, depend on Him and engage in thankfulness.
(h) They are to such a wild, miserable, sinful individual as I, who has abused His grace and mercy, and daily grieve Him. I am less than the least of all His mercies; this increases the mercy. What am I, that the Lord should visit me?
(i) When favours are so few in a day of indignation, famine and confusions (when all are generally crying out “my leanness”) these are great indeed.