There are times in life when it seems as though we give and give and give and all others do is take. It’s not like we want to complain or anything, but sometimes life can get really discouraging when we constantly give of ourselves and nobody seems to care (except for us of course). You can rest assured that you are not alone in your feelings.
As a whole our society is much too self-absorbed and therefore ungrateful. You’d think that people who have so much would be all the more appreciative, but such is not the case. In fact, the more people have, the more they want. The more that is given to them, the more they think they deserve.
In part, a lack of awareness contributes to the problem. Quite honestly we often don’t think of giving thanks until there is a significant cause for reminder. And sometimes we don’t even have a clue with regards to the steep price that may have been paid for our benefit. This is certainly the case with children.
Although things may be worse in our current culture, the tendency towards ungratefulness is not unique to our day. Jesus once healed ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and was amazed that only one returned to give thanks. Considering the circumstances (the Son of God Himself healed their dreaded disease), it is provides a sad commentary on human nature.
How do we overcome discouragement when others don’t seem to appreciate our efforts? It helps considerably for us to adjust our focus. Three primary issues stand out.
- Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us give to others with the expectation of something in return. It’s love with a hook. For example, I buy Jimmy a nice present for his birthday. In part I just want to bless him, but the selfish part of me is also looking for Jimmy to return the favor. I am offended if he fails to reciprocate!
One of the highest forms of love is to give to another without expectation of any personal benefit in return. I’m not saying that this should apply in all circumstances, but we could certainly use a little more of this type of love in our world.
- Giving of ourselves to others works best when our love for God is our underlying motivation. Didn’t Jesus say that the two greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40)? Which commandment carries the greater weight? To love God, of course. If we love others because we love God, we never have to worry about our efforts being for naught. Even if they don’t appreciate our sacrifices, He does!
Hebrews 6:10 tells us that “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints” (NET). Rewards may not be immediate, but it really helps to know that God values our loving service to Him.
- I think that it’s important for our service to be girded by faith. It’s easier to pay a steep price for something if you know that your sacrifice will actually accomplish something of significance. A heart of faith believes that our efforts are not useless and will matter in the end. At one time 1 Corinthians 15:58 was my mantra of sorts for an entire year! In the midst of terribly discouraging circumstances I had to constantly remind myself that my service to others for the sake of Christ carried eternal significance—and it did!
This time of the year provides an awesome reminder that we ourselves need to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. A grateful heart will never be dry like the one which constantly focuses on all that is lacking.