And be thankful.” – so ends Colossians 3:15.

Thankfulness is perhaps the most simple of virtues; children are taught this from the youngest of ages. Yet, it is no secret that thankfulness is also the most evasive of virtues to obtain and hold onto. The difficult circumstances of life, the obvious flaws in even the best of things, the unmet expectations from another, all tempt us to disobey the simple command that ends Colossians 3:15, “And be thankful.”

Thankfulness is easy to spot—simply count the “thank you’s” you hear each day and look out for similar expressions of gratitude from loved ones. But un-thankfulness is much more difficult to spot—especially within ourselves.

Excuses hide un-thankfulness. There are even perfectly fine character traits that nonetheless kill thankfulness in our hearts. The ‘perfectionist’s’ desire to excel by fixing one flawed detail, covers the ingratitude for the ninety-nine details that were perfect. The ‘realist’s’ description of the dark cloud, ignores the silver lining for which thanks could be given. The ‘good steward’s’ frugal comment, obliterates gratitude for the proposed gesture of goodwill. Not wanting to be perceived as naïve or vulnerable, we over-zealously promote one virtue to the point of removing any obvious expression of “and be thankful.”

Thankfulness is not just the absence of bitterness or resentment. Thankfulness is overtly proactive. Colossians 2:7 requires of Christians a thankfulness that “abounds” (think of Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh stories when you see the word “abound”). “And be thankful” is not something that comes automatically. Thankfulness requires overt effort.

Next time you need to comment on some incorrect detail, first express gratitude for what is correct. Next time you feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of your circumstances, first thank those who are making it more bearable. Next time you feel like doing anything whatsoever, first give thanks. It might feel very strange to you at first, but for those around you it will be one of the kindest and most Christ-like gestures they’ll ever remember. Remember, it was Jesus who, after weeping over the death of His friend (John 11:35, 38), started His prayer with “Father, I thank you …” (John 11:41).

After all your life accomplishments have been remembered, may your funeral service one day end with “and __________ was thankful.