Thankfulness changes our eyes.
Humans come hard-wired with sight issues. From our earliest days this tunnel-vision keeps our eyes riveted on the unholy trinity of self: me, myself, and I. One of the first instincts of infancy is to establish the boundaries of what is mine. In many ways this territorial claim is the constant tension that shadows life. Someone has said that conflict is when two people try to occupy the same space. And, it's true. My space is mine, and I guard it with intensity.
How gratitude stretches this myopia is obvious. When I am genuinely thankful my focus shifts, even if just momentarily, to the object of my affection. Usually this diversion expands vision beyond the limited perimeter of defined self-interest. In the case of grounded biblical gratitude this focus moves upward, acknowledging the provision of God over all of life. Counting our blessings also draws other people into our line of sight since the human equation is so central to daily existence. These are two specific ways gratitude changes our eyes, at least metaphorically. Pause with me over them for a moment----
1. Authentic thankfulness moves our eyes heavenward.
It's more true today than perhaps ever before, but we live in a diverse and spiritually pluralistic culture. All of the hoopla surrounding recent politics has brought this changing spiritual landscape to our attention with great force. A friend reminded me the other day that everyone is not a Christian, that all Christians are not evangelicals, and there will be more than Baptists in God's final accounting of things. What is interesting to note is that a thankful heart lifts even unbelievers to a spiritual awareness of something greater than self.
As a Christian this upward look is the recognition of Jehovah God as the creator, sovereign, and Lord of all. This acknowledgement is central to Scripture---
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell
Psalm 24:1, ESV
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and
earth, does not live in temples made by man.
Acts 17:24, ESV
Thus says God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out;
he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives
breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.
Isaiah 42:5, ESV
And many others. What is more, Scripture affirms that God is the one who gives and provides for his creation.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the
Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17, ESV
In this last verse James shifts our eyes to the one above, whose gifts are pictured as "coming down from the Father of lights". In moments of gratitude we must look beyond ourselves to the one who gives. It is a cure for the nearsightedness that afflicts us with further self-absorption.
2. Authentic thankfulness helps us observe the blessings of other people.
The opening chapters of Scripture remind us that we were not created to be alone. Our relationship to others is a special theme in the writing of King Solomon. In Ecclesiastes he wrote---
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if
they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and
has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but
how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who
is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV
In the New Testament, the place of others in our lives is elevated and we recognize the unique contribution others make to our welfare. Paul wrote---
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more
significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3, ESV
As we inventory life and count our blessings, the focus can easily shift from the close confines of our own experiences to include the value of others over us. It's another sight remedy, the ability to see how the people around us bless and enhance our lives.
There's a third measure of how gratitude changes our eyes.
3. Authentic thankfulness helps us perceive our own lives differently.
Looking up and at others with thankful hearts can give us a more healthy view
of our own lives as well. God has a purpose for each of us. This divine sense is often overshadowed by the harsh realities we must face on the mean streets every day. Pausing to thank God and the people who touch our lives often relieves the tension of tests and hardships and brings his peace to us.
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us
will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only
supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings
2 Corinthians 9:11-12, ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of
God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in
Philippians 4:6-7, ESV
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it
may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15, ESV
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV
Yes, thankfulness changes us. When we are thankful, our self-absorbed myopia is cured and we're able to see everything with greater clarity.