Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. –Psalm 100
Each time I walk into the grocery store lately stacks of canned pumpkin, boxes of stuffing mix and displays of cranberry sauce tell me that Thanksgiving is upon us. There is no doubt; it’s the season for eating. Although many people see the focal point of this holiday as a large meal, I love it because it is centered on the attitude of our hearts. The idea of gathering with those we love to pause and be thankful to God for all the He has done is something worth celebrating.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking at what the Bible has to say about giving thanks. Some have convicted me, some have inspired me, and all of them have given me ideas about how to practice the art of thankfulness more consistently in my life. Maybe you’ll be challenged to try one for yourself to make this year’s Thanksgiving even more meaningful.
God’s Faithfulness Through All Generations
Psalm 100 (written above) reminds us we have many things to thank God for:
1. He made us. 2. We are His. 3. He is good. 4. His love endures forever. 5. His faithfulness continues through all generations.
Those are some pretty big concepts that I often take for granted. The one that strikes me most right now is the last one: His faithfulness continues through all generations. I am thankful that I was blessed with parents who taught me to love God and to value His word. My husband and I are striving to do the same for our kids. I am thankful that no matter what the future holds, my children can rest assured knowing that God’s faithfulness to them will continue. In this world of uncertainty where the future doesn’t always look bright, this is something to be thankful for, indeed.
People Who Have Impacted My Life
Recently I was leafing through my Bible looking through all of the letters Paul wrote in the New Testament. I was struck by how often he opens with giving thanks to God for the people to whom he was writing and with whom he shared a common bond of faith. They were people he spent time with, prayed with, taught and ministered to in a variety of ways. A quick count revealed nine books in the New Testament where Paul gives thanks for people. In case you’re wondering, here are the references: Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-6, Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3, Philemon 4.
My favorite is probably Philippians 1:3-6: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Like Paul, there are many people in my life with whom I’ve been blessed to share a “partnership in the gospel.” There are friends who have enriched my life as they’ve walked with me work through hard situations; friends who have helped me to discover and use my spiritual gifts; friends who have pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone; friends who have helped me to see myself as God sees me… for them I give God thanks. I might even take it one step further and write a few cards this week to let them know how God has blessed me through them.
Miracles, Both Large and Small
In her book One Thousand Gifts, author Ann VosKamp points out that Jesus often gave thanks to God before performing miracles. One great example of this is in John 6:11 when Jesus is preparing to feed a crowd of 5000. He takes the meager offering of five small barley loaves and two fish given to Him by a little boy. Here is what happens next: “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”
So often when I’ve read this in the past, I’ve skipped right past the crucial phrase “gave thanks” and have instead focused on the amazing miracle Jesus performed. How frequently have I done the same to God in my life? I wonder when I’ve prayed for a miracle but skipped over the part about thanking God first–or recognizing the ways He’s already working in a situation.
I have a friend whose husband was out of work a few years ago. In our weekly prayer requests at Bible study, she would often write “I’m thankful for the awesome job that God is preparing for my husband right now.” Wow, that was humbling for me to read. She was thanking God for a need He hadn’t met yet and trusting Him for a miracle. Her example was an encouraging reminder when my own husband was in the midst of a job challenge earlier this year. I was able to pray with true excitement and thankfulness for how God would work out a seemingly impossible situation (If you haven’t already, you can read more about this story in my blog post entitled: God Margin: When God’s 300 is Greater Than the Enemy’s 135,000).
Replacing Angst with Thanks
I like to think of myself as a “recovering worrier.” I have a tiny problem with feeling anxious about things on a fairly regular basis (that might be an understatement). It’s probably the reason Philippians 4:6-7 is one of my favorite verses: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This passage challenges me to take my worries and turn them into prayers. We can thank God for hearing our prayers and already having the answer figured out– even when we don’t know what it is. The verse doesn’t say God will answer our prayers right away and do exactly what we want. However, it does say that when we lay our anxious thoughts before Him, a peace that defies understanding will rest upon us. It doesn’t guarantee that whatever is making us anxious will be resolved, but it does say thanking God gives us a peace that guards our hearts. The act of thanking God changes our perspectives and eliminates the need for worry.
Being Thankful in All Circumstances
A few years ago my small group did a verse exchange for Christmas. People wrote a favorite verse on a card and then we drew them out of a basket.
The verse I drew was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Since that time, the verse has been a favorite in my life and one I’ve given to others often. It is simple in theory, but challenging to put into practice daily: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Sometimes I can thank God for good situations and even hard situations, but I forget to thank Him for some of the more mundane things in my life that are easy to take for granted. Sometimes the stuff of motherhood seems like a chore. Laundry seems to reproduce at lightning speed. Dishes always seem to be in the sink. My kids regularly need help with school assignments or rides to sports practices and other activities. Errands always need to be run. Each of these seemingly mundane tasks can suck the life out of me if I have the wrong perspective. However, when I take time to be thankful, something changes in me. Those mountains of laundry mean that I have the blessing of a family. They show that we have an abundance of clothing to wear and the luxury of a washer and drier to do the worst parts of the job. Those dishes in the sink remind me to be thankful that we eat three meals a day and can have food whenever our stomachs grumble even slightly. Helping my kids with schoolwork means they are being educated and will have an abundance of opportunities available to them as a result. The fact that I can help them shows that I’ve been blessed with a sound mind and a good education as well. With a thankful heart the mundane things that I “have to do” become the blessings that I “get to do.” A simple shift in perspective is all it takes.
No doubt, you’ll spend some time this week shopping at a variety of stores and preparing special food to celebrate Thanksgiving. This year, try working in some time to practice thankfulness by looking at a few of the topics I’ve touched on above and taking time to name the things for which you’re thankful. It will bless you with a more meaningful celebration. It will also leave you filled up in a way that feels considerably better than the usual post-Thanksgiving meal belly bloat. Spread the gratitude by sharing some of your thoughts with others around the table or leave a comment below.
For more inspiration on being thankful, click on the link below to hear the song “All I Can Do (Thank You)” by the band MIKESCHAIR.