When we aren’t thankful in one area, it usually rolls over into other areas of our lives too. Often, those who are not thankful for the people in their lives, or the gifts given them, are not likely to be thankful to God either.
How to cultivate thankfulness beyond the Thanksgiving season…
Recently, I’ve observed that the practice of sending “thank you” notes seems to be like a long lost practice, especially for many when it comes to wedding or graduation gifts. Not sure why? Unless it’s just simply due to living life in such a frantic pace of busyness, many no longer take the time to write and mail thank you notes. Many may feel as though writing thank you notes is not necessary, especially if they have verbally expressed their appreciation for a gift, or due to other options like email. I am aware of some who send a thank you note for every single gift they receive, including birthday gifts (which is something I have never consistently done personally myself). This is actually something my precious mother-in-law, Helen, always did, and every note always blessed me, as well as sort of surprised me, that she would take the time to send a thank you note even for her birthday gifts. Personally, though, I’m just more of a traditionalist with writing thank you notes when it comes to wedding gifts or graduation gifts, and I sort of have always felt like that’s more expected or in keeping with proper etiquette. There is no need to be legalistic about the writing of thank you notes or anything else for that matter. We all have grace even for this, and even if we have not ever written a thank you note for anything. Oh, and by the way, if you’re a friend or a family member who’s reading this and you’re recalling an instance when I did not say thank you or write you a thank you note for a gift I received, please forgive me, and thank you for giving me the same grace you would desire to receive from me. Here’s what’s more important and what is on my heart relating to the issue of thankfulness: maintaining an attitude of thankfulness. Whether you are a thank you note writer or not, hopefully, your lack thereof is not indicative of an overall disposition of thanklessness in general? Many of us may be thankful, but just may not take the time to say “thank you”, much less write a thank you note for various reasons.
However, I believe this to be true for most of us: when we aren’t thankful in one area, it usually rolls over into other areas of our lives too. Often, those who are not thankful for the people in their lives, or the gifts given them, are not likely to be thankful to God either. In general, complaining and criticizing are much more prevalent in our culture, and those doing so frequently get a lot more airtime on all the talk shows and news channels as well. In subtle ways, we are accustomed more to complaining than being thankful, and we seem to be witnessing more of an entitlement generation, which tends to also breed thanklessness. Instead of complaining about our jobs, traffic, the weather, the high cost of higher education, etc., we should be thankful we have jobs, cars to drive in the traffic, opportunities to get an education, and thankful we are alive and breathing to experience all of this and more. Sometimes, having a thankful heart is just a matter of changing our perspective. The Bible clearly instructs us to “be thankful” and complaining is strongly discouraged. Philippians 2:14 tells us to do everything without complaining, and, perhaps news to some, being thankful is actually part of God’s will for us who claim to be followers of Christ. One of the common questions believers often ask is, “What is God’s will for me?” This question is clearly answered in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which states:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
(In the two verses prior to verse 18 we are to told to always be joyful and never stop praying – the rest of God’s will for us. Being thankful in all circumstances is perhaps not likely to be the attitude of our heart, if we don’t have some of the joy of Jesus, much less open communication with Him through prayer.)
Wow! And how can we be “thankful in all circumstances?” Well, the answer to that can be found in another scripture reference from Zephaniah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.” Not by our own might, or own strength, but by and through God’s Spirit helping us, we can remain “thankful in all circumstances.” We, of course, are not to be thankful for pain, suffering, loss, and other similar situations, but, we can still be thankful “in” and through these situations, even if it is just simply continuing to be thankful that God is always with us. We have to choose to focus on the blessings in our lives, God’s faithfulness, and His constant love that never fails and His grace that always sustains and carries us.
Saying “thank you” to God is also one of the ways we are told to enter into “His gates” (Psalm 100:4). Looks like we are not even entering the gate of His presence, much less the door of His heart, without a thankful attitude. Thanksgiving is an expression, not just a thought. Being thankful is an expression of our heart towards God and others.
Let’s fulfill the will of God in our lives by being thankful at all times, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every single day! We should always be giving thanks and praise to God – the One who has given us the very breath we breathe. Express your thankful heart to God and to others. Even if you don’t have time to write a thank you note, at least take the time to say thank you to those who have been a blessing to you. In the healing of the ten lepers, only one of the ten lepers healed returned to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-17). Be that one who is truly thankful and not thankless. Give thanks to God and give thanks for today!
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 136:1)
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:16)
Ways to initiate an attitude of thankfulness specifically on Thanksgiving Day:
- Have everyone write at least one thing they are thankful for on a note and place it in a basket. Read the notes aloud for everyone to hear. Notes can be anonymous or not.
- Read aloud Psalm 100 or portions of Psalm 107, Psalm 136, or Psalm 103, which speaks of blessing the Lord or calling into remembrance all His blessings to us. Being reminded of God’s goodness to us should inspire thankfulness.
Ways to initiate thankfulness everyday:
- Begin your day thanking God that you are alive and breathing and He has given you the gift of another day.
- Take time to write our your prayers and always begin with thanking the Lord first.
- Keep a “blessing” box and write down your blessings and place in the box, or, just take time to regularly write down in a journal what you are thankful for.