THANKFULNESS AS A MORAL THERAPEUTIC
By A. W. Tozer
In this world of corruption there is real danger that the earnest Christian may overreact in his resistance to evil and become a victim of the religious occupational disease -- cynicism. The constant need to go counter to popular trends may easily develop in him a sour habit of faultfinding and turn him into a sulky critic of other men's matters, without charity and without love.
What makes this cynical spirit particularly dangerous is that the cynic is usually right. His analyses are accurate, his judgment sound. He can prove he is right in his moral views; yet for all that he is wrong, frightfully, pathetically wrong. But because he is right, he never suspects how tragically wrong he is. He slides imperceptibly into a condition of chronic bitterness and comes at last to accept it as normal.
It would be convenient indeed if it were possible to have a spiritual experience at some altar of prayer that would cure this condition completely and for good. And some sincere persons seem to believe that it is. I do not think so. It is like trying to get an infusion of health once for all that would take care of our physical condition for the rest of our lives, obviously an impossible thing. No matter how healthy we are, unless we cultivate correct bodily habits we will not stay healthy long. And an experience of heart cleansing that is not followed by right spiritual habits will be disappointing in the end. Continued spiritual health will result from right heart habits. If these are neglected the inner life will degenerate, no matter how wonderful our past experiences may have been.
Now, as a cure for the sour, faultfinding attitude -- I recommend the cultivation of the habit of thankfulness. Thanksgiving has great curative power. The heart that is constantly overflowing with gratitude will be safe from those attacks of resentfulness and gloom that bother so many religious persons. A thankful heart cannot be cynical.
I do not here recommend any of the appliedpsychology nostrums so popular in liberal circles and among starry-eyed poets of the 'sweetness-and-light school' of religious thought. The output of the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" jockeys makes painful reading for the man or woman who has been introduced to God through the miracle of the new birth. But I do recommend the cultivation of gratitude as a cure for spiritual sourness. There is good scriptural authority for this, and experience teaches us that it works.
We should never take any blessing for granted, but accept everything as a gift from the Father of Lights. Whole, days may be spent occasionally in the holy practice of being thankful. We should write on a tablet one by one the things for which we are grateful to God and to our fellow men. And a constant return to this thought during the day as our minds get free will serve to fix the habit in our hearts.
We could begin with our creation and tell God how grateful we are that He ever thought of us and brought us into being out of the empty void -- of nothingness. And when we had sinned, He remembered us still and sent His Son to die for us.
He gave us the Bible and His blessed Spirit to teach us inwardly to understand it. We could go on to tell Him how glad we are for the Church, for good spiritual teachers, for faithful pastors and hymnists who have made the services of the Church each Sunday such a helpful and precious thing.
In trying to count our many blessings,the difficulty is not to find things to count, but to find time to enumerate them all. Personally I have gotten great help from the practice of talking over with God the many kindnesses I have received from my fellow men. To my parents I owe my life and my upbringing. To my teachers I owe that patient line-upon-line instruction that took me when I was a young, ignorant pagan and enabled me to read and write.
To the patriots and statesmen of the past I owe the liberties I now enjoy. Too numerous, and unknown soldiers who shed their blood to keep our country free I owe a debt I can never pay.
And I please God and enlarge my own heart when I remind the Lord that I am grateful for them. For every man and woman of every race and nationality who may have contributed anything to my peace and welfare I am grateful, and I shall not let God forget that I am.
Yours in Christ,
Paul N. F.