It’s November, and though we’ve decided to skip straight to Christmas on many fronts, there’s this holiday at the end of the month called Thanksgiving.
I love the concept of Thanksgiving. It’s a whole day set aside to celebrate God’s blessings and encourage a spirit of thankfulness. But if I’m honest, the most thankfulness I practice on Thanksgiving is the prayer I utter right before I dig into my food.
Genuine thankfulness, the kind that exudes gratefulness to God, does not come easily or naturally to me. Still, I want to learn thankfulness, because I want to deeply appreciate the blessings and gifts God graciously provides.
Thankful for What?
The attitude I struggle with is this: “God, I’ll be thankful when You give me a husband (please and thank you). I’ll be thankful when You heal this difficult relationship. I’ll be thankful when You finally do what I need you to do.”
I’ve walked through some tough things, and sometimes hardness comes into my heart when I hear I should have a spirit of thankfulness. Indeed, God emphasizes thankfulness many times in His Word:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:7
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:2
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Ephesians 5:20
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there is an emphasis on God’s people being thankful people. Why all this emphasis on thankfulness, especially when there are so many tough things that we have to deal with? I think it’s because practicing thankfulness helps us to refocus on the God who loves us.
Our Gracious Father
My first step in being thankful is recognizing just how much God loves and cares for me. When I realize this, I more clearly see how God provides for my needs and well-being. The more clearly I see His faithfulness, the more thankful I become.
Another way I practice being thankful is to list out my blessings. Just when I’m about to have my pity party for one, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of the ways God has assisted me. I list the different ways the Lord has provided and thank Him for them.
The final way I practice being thankful is by learning not to overlook everyday blessings. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Every good gift.
Every good gift I have in my life, no matter how seemingly mundane, is from God:
A stranger paid for a new tire for my car.
I have a job that covers my bills.
God provided me with great roommates.
I have a car to get to work.
I have a great Christian community.
Somebody paid for my breakfast at Chick Fil A.
I have a gift for drawing, art and graphic design that I really enjoy.
All good gifts from a gracious God. I’m sure you could make your own list as well.
It’s so easy to overlook God’s good gifts, and perhaps that is because we grow so used to having a God who provides for us that we take that provision for granted. We forget to say thank you.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing thankfulness isn’t easy, but I believe it is so worth it.
I stated earlier that I want to learn to be genuinely thankful toward God. I sometimes think of God as a hardworking, dedicated father who is working to put food on the table for His kids. While I believe God encourages us to ask Him for both needs and wants, I never want to take for granted that He is faithfully providing what I need.
My heart is in a genuine place, but sometimes (most times) I still grumble. I don’t give up, though. Since thankfulness is important to God, He will work to develop it in me. This Thanksgiving, let’s celebrate the day by reflecting on our awesome God and thanking Him for the countless ways He cares for us.
What are some ways you have seen God provide for you? What are some things you can thank Him for today?