Brandishing an unspent gift card, my son looked at me with a gleam in his eye. “Can I bring this to buy a Lego set when we go on errands today?”
Curious, I asked, “Where did you get that card?”
“Four months ago, for my birthday!” He answered before adding, “Don’t worry, Mom, I already wrote a thank you note for it a long time ago.”
If there is one thing my boys know about me, it’s that I am adamant about showing gratitude—whether it is for a gift we’ve received, an act of kindness someone has done for us, or time spent on our behalf. They learned long ago that we would not leave a sports practice or a game until they had shaken hands with the coach and said “thank you.” Although it’s human nature to focus only on what we’ve received, we try to help our kids remember the giver too.
Expressing gratitude is the best way to combat the entitlement so prevalent in our culture today. It reminds us that the many blessings we have are not rights, but privileges. A grateful heart enables us to give and receive God’s grace more freely because we recognize it is a gift we don’t deserve. Learning to be thankful in all circumstances also helps us to keep our eyes on God, no matter what we are facing. Gratitude prevents bitterness and negativity from taking up residence in our minds. Maybe that’s what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
The Thanksgiving season provides an annual opportunity to recognize our many blessings instead of just taking them for granted. But is just feeling thankful enough? What about acknowledging those who deserve our thanks, starting with God?
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17, NIV)
I would be bothered if my boys received a gift in the mail, opened it and then held it up and said “I’m thankful for this,” but never bothered to tell the person who sent it. The giver would have no idea that they appreciated what they received. And yet, there are many things we regularly enjoy or appreciate without taking time to express gratitude.
Feeling thankful should prompt us to communicate how we feel. There are little things we take for granted every day that repeat so frequently we may forget we’re thankful for them. In that spirit, I’d like to share a few of the things that are part of daily life that I’m thankful for this year:
-The spiritual gifts God has given me to use for the sake of others. I have discovered more joy in the past three years than I’ve ever experienced before as I’ve had new opportunities to share the gifts of encouragement, teaching and shepherding. These gifts would be worthless if I kept them to myself, but are invaluable and infinite when shared with others.
-My husband’s constant support and encouragement. I couldn’t write, speak, teach or pour into others to the extent that I do if my husband wasn’t providing for our family and supporting me emotionally and spiritually. We are a team, always looking for ways to further God’s kingdom together and individually. Never once has he questioned the amount of time I spend writing, studying or connecting with people. He cheers me on every step of the way and partners with me whenever the opportunity arises.
-My teenage boys who still talk to me and spend time with my husband and me. They delight, amaze and amuse me almost daily with their antics, their stories and their insightful observations. I thank God for the relationships we have and for His obvious presence in our household.
So how about you? Can you make some time this week to identify a few things in your daily life that make you thankful? Start by telling God. Then, tell the people closest to you that you are most likely to take for granted.
For inspiration, click on the link to enjoy Chris Tomlin’s song of praise, “Good, Good Father.” It’s a great reminder of the most basic truths about God that we sometimes take for granted. Happy Thanksgiving!