My kids and grandkids are spread around the country. Getting together has gotten more and more difficult as the grands have grown and have jobs and sports and camps. Our son and his family have a farm with pigs, cattle, chickens and ducks—they can’t leave for an extended time.
I am so excited and grateful that everyone will be here together on Thanksgiving!!
As we gather, we will do like most people on Thanksgiving: get with family and friends, eat way too much, maybe watch–or play—some football, and give a nod to giving thanks.
Is it possible, though, to be truly grateful on this day set aside to give thanks? And what about the rest of the year? Can we walk through life with a grateful heart?
There are a number of actions that can help grow a heart that gives thanks:
Write: Name people, places, and blessings in your life right now that you can say “thank You, Lord” for. Take some time to make a list of the things in your life that you are easily grateful for. Make a practice of doing this at the end of each day so it becomes a way of life.
Remember: A time you were deeply grateful—your wedding, the birth of a child, a new job, a special getaway. And recall how God has rescued or changed you. When you were desperate, or fearful, or failing. Recognize hard situations that made you stronger. The times you rejoiced. The times you cried. The evidence that God has been with you every step of the way.
Read: Scripture is full of examples of thanking God and reminders to be thankful. The Book of Psalms focuses on giving thanks often, such as Psalm 100 and 103.
I love Psalm 95:
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
And read often the admonitions Paul gives:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Reflect: What do you know about God? I know He is God and He is good. What other characteristics have you grasped that describe God? Love, mercy, justice, compassion, power, faithfulness, to name a few. Does reflecting on what our God is like help you say “Thank You, Lord” in even the most painful situations?
Repeat: The most important way to cultivate a grateful heart is to practice. Over and over, in every situation. In our family, we have been intentional about learning to say “Thank You” for the good and for what doesn’t seem good to us. When our son cut his head open while cutting back a hedge with a chainsaw, my first words were “Thank You, Lord.” Amazingly, those were his first words as well.
And what happens as we cultivate a grateful heart?
God seems bigger. He isn’t bigger–He is already the biggest. But He grows in my understanding and perspective. I begin to grasp that He truly is God—in control of the universe and my life—and He truly is always looking for ways to do good to me.
My heart changes. The fear, anger, and confusion lessen and peace grows. My focus slowly, sometimes quickly, moves from all that might go wrong, all the possible bad outcomes, to beginning to look for the good, for the positive possibilities.
Doors open. “Thank You” is a key that opens my heart and mind to see the good that God is doing, to recognize opportunities, to trust God’s love and goodness at a much deeper level.
For years I have practiced saying “Thank You, Lord.” Now, when little or big challenges come, my first response is almost always “Thank You, Lord.” Almost always. Still not easy. But oh how it protects and encourages and frees my heart and my mind.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
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