Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Ghana, West Africa where I had the privilege of sharing the message of Jesus Christ. What I found in Ghana reinforced what I have often believed: Most of the time we are clueless regarding the incredible ways that God has blessed you and me.

Ghana was celebrating its 53th year of independence from Great Britain and had been attempting to grow its democracy, economy, educational system, and opportunities for people to succeed. The country has made incredible progress, but they still have tremendous needs – especially among its poorest citizens in small villages throughout the country.

Spiritually, the people have a rich desire for the Truth of the Gospel and for understanding the Word of God. Again and again I was fortunate to be able to share with clarity many of the Truths of the Bible. It was quite refreshing to see their spiritual hunger!

As I was returning from my mission, I began reflecting on how much we take for granted in living in the United States, how often we hoard our blessings for ourselves, and how we neglect to give thanks to God for all we have, including: Water; Electricity; Access to medical care; Roads; Cars; Communications; Church facilities; Soccer leagues; Jobs.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Rejoice always. In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16f). When was the last time you gave thanks to the Lord? When was the last time you rejoiced? It seems easy to sit in our abundance griping and complaining about what we don’t have, isn’t it? What would happen if you began to take your eyes off what you don’t have and began to thank God for what you do have?

As a child, I lived at times without. I can remember cold nights with no electricity. I remember Christmas mornings without presents. I remember not having a change of clothes. Maybe those experiences from childhood gave me eyes to see the blessings around me. I am not sure. But I do know that if I ignore the blessings God has given me, life becomes empty, routine, and sometimes even miserable.

What if the next time you find yourself complaining about your job, you pause and give thanks to God that you have a job? What if the next time you find yourself complaining about the traffic, you pause and give thanks to God that you have a car, that you have roads on which to drive, and that you have gas for your car? What if this Advent season you actually paused and gave thanks to God for specific blessings in your life? What if?