So now it’s Thanksgiving week—the time we know we’re supposed to express our thankfulness to God. The Scriptures remind us often of this truth; 1 Thessalonians 5:18, for example, tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
But have you thought about why we should be thankful to God?
I’ve been a follower of Christ for close to 40 years now. As I look through these years, I realize that expressing my thanks to our Heavenly Father may be as powerful as any other discipline of the Christian life.
Being thankful compels me to fix my eyes on God rather than on myself. It humbles me. It lifts my mind off my troubles and anxieties and reminds me that God will always provide for my needs, and that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Being thankful lifts my spirit.
As you approach Thanksgiving, here’s one way to cultivate a thankful heart: Spend time listing God’s blessings in your life. And don't stop until you've listed at least 10-15. The exercise will force you to think creatively about God’s care and provision—even in small things.
For the last few years I've received a Thanksgiving email that Carol Cunningham of Sandy, Utah, sends to family and friends. I worked with Carol and her husband, David, years ago at the publications department of Cru. In her Thanksgiving emails she lists the different ways that God has blessed their family. Here are some samples from her 2010 letter, in which she said she was thankful for:
- My family and friends who make my life so rich with joy.
- My husband who continues to demonstrate his love for me in innumerable acts of kindness and caring.
- My mother who is going strong at 85 and still loves to swim even on a cold, foggy day.
- Co-workers who know how to share a laugh even when the schedule is so tight there's no time to breathe.
- The God-given wisdom of the human soul that knows, deep down, that God is, and that He is good.
- The way the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains glow in the light of a full moon.
- The eternal and unchanging promises of God—that I am His and He is mine, now and forever.
- That there is a sure day coming when I will know Him fully, just as I have been known, and I will see Him face to face.
This year’s Thanksgiving email from Carol is a bit more somber. She and David have faced a number of intense challenges from health and family issues. But in her words you can see the power of thanking and praising God.
In a year of startling and difficult twists and turns, it is more important than ever to stop and consider all the blessings we have experienced. I am so thankful …
- That on restless nights when I cannot sleep I know that I am not abandoned or forgotten by the One who created me, who loves me perfectly and knows me perfectly.
- That the clouds moving outside my window are a gift from God, sent to remind me of the vastness of the universe.
- That when I don’t know how to pray (which is more often than not), God’s Spirit intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words.
- That my family has pulled together in extraordinary ways to cope with Mom’s illness and her house and all the many, many details and decisions that confronted us along the way.
- That Mom is 87 and doing so well in spite of cancer and surgery, enjoying her swims and her photos and her music, and making the best of all that she’s been through and the time that remains.
- That it is not my job to fix the universe or my kids
- That a pine tree flooded with warm summer sunlight and smelling of the richness of the mountains can bring to mind a lifetime of wonderful memories.
- That life is short and long, sweet and difficult, all at the same time.
- That we are not meant to understand everything.
- That God does not allow us to see the future—it would be overwhelming.
- That every heartache has meaning, and no sin and no sinner is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.
- That His purpose prevails.
- That an early morning walk on the beach can be all I really want or need; it is enough simply because God walks with me.
- That no matter how much I thank Him, I can’t thank Him enough. That no matter how much I worship Him, I cannot worship Him enough. That’s what eternity is for …
GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
FOR HE IS GOOD, HIS LOVE
Listing God’s blessings in your life forces you to focus on Him, and in the process you catch a glimpse of His love, care, and compassion. This week you might want to take some time to do this as a couple, or as a family. I guarantee you will be encouraged.
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.