As a local church pastor, I have the privilege of serving people of all ages. Some of those whom I have served for nearly two decades have been my friends for nearly as long. While I am close friends with men who are in their thirties and forties, I am also close friends with men in their sixties and seventies. I have often considered why I have so thoroughly enjoyed being friends with older men, including the late Dr. R.C. Sproul (who would have been eighty this year). I have come to realize that much of the reason I have always enjoyed the friendship of men so much older than I am is partly because my father was older than most of the fathers of boys my age. My father was born in 1924, and he was my best friend until he passed away in 1992. My father lived through the Great Depression, had a paper route at the age of seven, fought in World War II, and lost his first son in a tragic accident in 1969. My father learned to live with little, and he told me always to learn to live with a little less. Through much hardship, my father learned to be grateful. And my dear mother, who in many ways has experienced even greater hardships in life than my father did, learned to be grateful. By their examples, I learned gratefulness as a way of life.
The only way to have abiding gratefulness, through good times and hard times, is to humbly ask our Father to make us grateful and to ask Him daily to make us even more grateful.
While it is certainly true that the friendships I have with older men is due partly to the friendship I had with my father, I have come to realize that regardless of the age of my friends, one of the characteristics they all have in common is that they are deeply grateful because of the hardships they have all experienced. In God’s providence, life’s hardships train us to be grateful. And while I am thankful to know many young people who are grateful because of the example of gratefulness in their homes and the work of God in their hearts, generally speaking, when I consider younger generations, I am concerned about what seems to be a general lack of gratefulness and a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is the enemy of gratefulness, but the closest friends of gratefulness are humility and contentment. The only way to have abiding gratefulness, through good times and hard times, is to humbly ask our Father to make us grateful and to ask Him daily to make us even more grateful. When we do that, we do well to remember that the road to abiding gratefulness is often paved with hardship that rids our hearts of any sense of entitlement. By the sovereign grace of God, hardship leads to humility, contentment, and gratefulness—not because of what we have, but because of who we have—the One who gives and who takes away to the end that we might forever proclaim, “Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.