“Gratitude takes what you have and makes it enough.” I confess one of my biggest struggles is contentment. Growing up in America, we constantly hear about the American dream, the very essence of which is “work hard so you can get more.” More money, better cars, a nicer house. And although all those things are good, they are not the end all be all.
Earlier this year I was reading Psalm 23 which says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Another translation says, “I have all that I need”. And let me tell you, the conviction hit me like a ton of bricks. God, our Good Shepherd, my Perfect Father is faithful to provide everything that I need. He already has. No, I don’t have everything I WANT. But I have everything I NEED, and then some. And when my focus is on the things I don’t have instead of the things I do, the enemy likes to creep in and whisper that same lie he whispered to Adam and Eve so long ago, “God is holding out on you. He doesn’t want the best for you.”
So how do we combat the lies? Scripture gives us a clear (but not always easy) solution. “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In EVERYTHING. Not just when our prayers get answered. Not just when there’s enough money in the bank. But in everything. In times that are hard. In times of sickness. In times of unanswered prayers. In seasons of loneliness and times of want.
Just a few months ago I was really struggling with feeling discouraged. It felt like everyone else was getting what they wanted, but like God had turned His back on me. In my head I knew God was good and He loved me, but my heart wasn’t feeling it. I have heard time and time again that gratitude is the key to joy. However, giving thanks when I didn’t have what I wanted was the last thing I wanted to do, but I had no other choice. So I decided instead of keeping my eyes on the things I wanted- the things I didn’t yet have- that I would fix them on the things I did. And be thankful for them.
At first it was a struggle. Whenever our squeaky apartment door didn’t shut and I had to go back and push it closed for the 497th time, I said, “Lord, thank you that we have a safe place to live, a roof over our heads, and Lord, thank you especially for air-conditioning.” Whenever my baby was screaming in the back seat and the last five stoplights had turned red right as I approached the intersection, I said, “Lord, thank you for a healthy baby. And for a car that works. And money to buy gasoline.” All of a sudden my perspective changed. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have and believing the grass was greener on the other side of receiving those things, I started realizing how blessed I was. Now as I drive past places that I know aren’t as safe to live, I think, “Lord, why do people have to live here while I get to live in a safe place? Lord, please protect them and their families.” When the stoplight turns red, I look at the homeless people on the side of the road and think, “Lord, what is their story? Why are they out there and I’m in here? Draw them to Yourself, Lord.”
Gratitude removes the blinders of discontentment from our eyes so that we can see the world with the compassion of Jesus. The reality is the world is a broken place and there are millions of women enslaved in the dark world of sex-trafficking. When I think about them, I realize even more how much I have to be thankful for. But that’s not enough. In Genesis, God tells Abraham that he is blessed to be a blessing. There are days when I struggle with “survivor’s guilt.” I ask God, “why them, not me?” As I look back at my life, I was one bad relationship away from being in their shoes. Each time I wrestle with these thoughts, the Lord reminds me that I am blessed to be a blessing. The Lord protected me from that path so I can proclaim His goodness to the hurting and advocate on their behalf.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather with friends and family, I pray we would remember just how much we have to be thankful for. I pray we would remember the hurting, the lost, and the broken. I pray we would remember we are blessed to be a blessing.
Author: Ashley Mancillas
Howdy! My name is Ashley and I’m thankful to be a born and raised Texas girl. I am a graduate of Texas A&M University (whoop!) and just recently became a mom to the sweetest little boy, Judah. I’m doing my best to walk daily with my Heavenly Father and make Him known to those around me. I am married to my college sweetheart, Steven, who I met country dancing while in school at Texas A&M. We currently reside in Houston, where we still enjoy dancing together and doing life with our awesome church community.