Help Me Be Thankful
Do you find yourself struggling to be thankful, except in those rare instances when all seems to be right with the world? Is it hard to offer wholehearted thanks to God when enemies seem abundant and the future uncertain? If so, Psalm 9 is a treasure trove for you today!
David, the psalmist, had enemies and troubles throughout his life. It is true that some were the result of his own sin, as with us all, but many were not. If anyone knew the pain of opposition and oppression, it was David. Yet, David is the author of much of this book of praise! What can we learn from him about thankfulness to God, even, perhaps especially, when we are opposed and oppressed?
First, is the necessity for a holy commitment to be thankful.
Psalm 9:1 (ESV) — 1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
If I don’t engage the imperative to be thankful until I feel thankful, then I will seldom arrive at a spirit of thanksgiving. We must often first commit ourselves to being thankful before we will be thankful. Why is this true? Because a spirit of thanksgiving grows from a spirit of submission and dependence – two things that do not come naturally from the human heart. To be thankful, I must acknowledge that I have received what I did not deserve or earn for myself. But by nature, the only time we think we got what we didn’t deserve is when we get what we didn’t want! Rather than a spirit of thanksgiving, we find a spirit of complaint. What is at the root of our nature is a failure to acknowledge a second lesson from Psalm 9…
The vision of God ruling eternally in strength and justice.
Psalm 9:4 (ESV) — 4 For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
Psalm 9:7–9 (ESV) — 7 But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. 9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
If we embrace a vision of God on His throne, forever ruling and reigning in justice, unassailable by my enemies, judging righteously and defending the oppressed from trouble, then, and only then, can I be thankful even when I am opposed and oppressed. If I have the eyes to see God this way, then I can remove the need to feel anxious, worried or defensive. God is my judge, my shield, and my vindication. My life and my confidence are in His hands. And His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, is at His right hand, having become my righteousness and being my intercession before God. His boast before the Father was for our sake: “Of those whom you gave me, I have lost not one.” (John 18:9)
Which leads to a third lesson from Psalm 9…
Grace enables thanksgiving.
Psalm 9:10 (ESV) — 10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation.
A just king and judge is only good news if I am perfect or if He is also gracious to those who seek Him in repentance. If I see the punitive hand of God behind opposition and oppression, I will cower from Him, instead of praise Him. God is a God of justice AND grace. Therefore, in Christ, I know that my oppression is not from the hand of God, because in faith I placed my sin on Christ and He covered me in His righteousness. Instead, grace enables thanksgiving because God is the one who lifts me up from oppression and death and fills my heart with thankfulness.
Even if you don’t feel thankful today, commit yourself to be thankful with the help of God. Believe that God reigns in power and justice for your good. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you depend on grace to be sufficient for your weakness and your need.