Thankfulness does not change our circumstances, but it does change our perspective on them and puts God's provision front and center as a reminder of His presence. To see these truths at play, there is perhaps no better place to turn than to 2 Kings 17 and the story of a widow in Zarephath.
The prophet Elijah, by the word of the Lord, goes to this widow after God has fed him in the wilderness for awhile by the mouth of ravens. He asks the widow to draw him a drink, and she obliges, but when he asks also for a bite of bread, she pulls back. She's on her last couple of tablespoons of flour and the mission she's on now is her last. She will prepare this last little bit of food for herself and her son, and then they will both die in the famine that is gripping the land.
Elijah instructs the widow in the Lord's abundance, and she obeys, and behold! those last little tablespoons of flour last her three years. Three years. Imagine having "just enough" for three years.
Imagine having exactly the same "just enough" for three years.
Every day for three years, this widow prepares the "last" of her flour for herself, her son, and the prophet who has come to stay with her in the midst of this famine. Every day, she measures out what doesn't seem to be enough and finds it more, feeding her house for one more day. Every day, they have the same bland meal, not even an extra fig or onion or flake of manna from heaven thrown in for variety. Just the same - the last little bit of flour, a miraculous little bread for the three of them.
This didn't work well just a few books ago, when Israel was wandering in the wilderness after fleeing Egypt. They ran out of food and without settlements of their own, there was no place for them to grow more. They were running on empty and grumbling about it, causing the entire nation to sin before the Lord before He finally took pity on them and provided manna. And when manna wasn't enough for them, quail - enough quail that it came out their noses.
The widow from Zarephath could have called it quits at any time. She could have stopped believing in the provision of the Lord, could have stopped trusting it. She could have longed for something more than the little that she always seemed to have, could have run off sinning in search of something with flavor. At any point, she could have said that what God was doing was not enough, and she could have prepared the last few tablespoons of flour and let the pot run dry. Even if God would not have let the cupboards go bare, she could have lived her life like He would, like every meal was her last. She could have lived in scarcity.
But with just a few tablespoons of flour, she found her abundance.
Most of us, just like Israel, would not have put up with it for very long. Certainly, we would not have been able to sustain our hope for three long years, eating the same tasteless breadcake day after day after day with just enough to make it and nothing but perspective to keep us believing that it wasn't our last. We'd have called it quits long ago. In fact, most of us do.
That's what I love about the story of the widow. See, we read it and think that God just filled up her cupboards on account of her faith, that the minute that Elijah spoke and the widow believed him, she had everything and knew it was going to be okay. But that's not how the story goes. This woman had just enough every day for three years, and she learned how to live with that. In scarce abundance.
That's very often how God comes into our lives, as well. He comes with measures overflowing, but we get them in small doses, just enough for one more day, just enough for one more night, just enough for one more breath. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we find this enough not to live on, but to believe on. Can we trust in scarce abundance?
Can we even, perhaps, be thankful for it?