These days, most of what I read seems to be board books. Joshua has become a book baby, and that’s a wonderful thing. Until the book ends and he is heartbroken.
We were in the thrift store a bit back, and I found him a VeggieTales board book, one of those where you press the button and it sings the song. (Yes, I did that to myself; not the most brilliant of plans for a parent, but the battery didn’t last too long, praise the God of all mercies!) It’s the one from “Madam Blueberry,” many of you probably know it by heart:
Joshua, being a toddler, had me read it again. And again. And again…etc. Eventually the song played in my head as a dull background roar as I did things around the house. Then came a moment when the words stopped being background noise with toddler comments slid in, and became words again. “Because a thankful heart is a happy heart…”
Thankfulness banishes discontent. It destroys envy. It gives luster to things around you, no matter if its plenty or miniscule. To be thankful for what we have opens our eyes to the wonder again; we notice how warm the sunshine is, how good just a glass of water can be, how sweet it is to smile at a friend. Thankfulness reawakens our joy in the things around us. It takes away the cankerous discontent that eats away our enjoyment of what we have. A thankful heart really is a happy heart.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t be striving to make things better around us. We all know the world is a broken place, and we are broken inside from the fall. We are bent out of shape, and every day Satan is trying to bend us closer to his mold. To just laze the days away and say everything’s cool, isn’t what we’re called to do as Christians, and isn’t what being thankful for what we have means. There is an sense where we need a little discontent playing in us. As Samuel Rutherford puts it so well, “If contentment were here, heaven were not heaven.” Don’t be a slothful fool who closes your eyes to the evil. Always remember where we are headed; that the world will be renewed, and we will be made perfect, and see Jesus face to face. Keep striving to be holy that He might pronounce, “Well done,” on that day you see Him.
But on the other side of the same coin is Chesteron’s words: “Nearly all the best and most precious things in the universe you can get for a halfpenny. I make an exception, of course, of the sun, the moon, the earth, people, stars, thunderstorms, and such trifles. You can get them for nothing.” We have so much to enjoy! God has blessed us with more than we can ever thank Him for. If we lived for ten million years, we would still be finding new things to thank Him for. Which, of course, is what happens if you are a Christian. The saints in Revelation gather around the throne in their white robes praising God in thankfulness. This is a Christian’s calling. We are commanded to be thankful, over and over in scripture. “…and be ye thankful.”
Which is another interesting thing about this little phrase from Phil Vischer’s board book. Doing what God tells us, ultimately makes us happy. Of course sometimes doing what God tells us brings on persecution from the world, or means denying ourselves things that would temporarily make us happy. If we’re honest with ourselves in the Western culture, we don’t have real persecution. Not yet. In our culture, it can mean ridicule, or denying ourselves those “special treats.” But we will be happier and better for following the law. If God made us, He knows what is best for us. If He loves us, he tells us to do what will be best for us. We are told to be thankful. And being thankful makes us happy.
Next time you’re reading a little one a book, or singing the same scripture memorization song for the ten thousandth time to keep the children from yelling in the car, try to break through the monotony and the childish shouts. There are often lessons to be learned even from the books that only have twenty words. God’s truths shine out in unexpected places sometimes. And I’m thankful for it!