When Thanksgiving arrives on the 4th Thursday of November, will your celebration resemble a Norman Rockwell painting where families sit down together for a meal and offer a blessing? Or will everyone grab a sandwich and watch football all day?
According to Lifeway Research, 56% of those polled said being thankful to God for blessings was most important; 38% reported spending time with family and friends top their priorities.
Regardless of how you approach the day, finding time to thank God for the blessings we receive is of utmost importance. David Jeremiah, noted author and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California says, “No matter the circumstance, we can find a reason to be thankful.”
Being thankful affects mind, body, spirit
Research shows that being thankful is good for us. No, it’s great for us.
Who is happier? An ungrateful person or a thankful one? The answer is what you would expect: In the life of Bible characters and in our own life, the person who pursues God is happiest. Following the Lord’s charge to be grateful brings blessings, which brings glory to God.
Benefits of gratitude and being thankful include being more optimistic, happier, having a stronger immune system, sounder sleep and rest, and a more generous attitude toward helping others. And grateful, happy people recover more quickly after surgery!
How to develop an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is not learned in a book, but it can be taught through example and by finding daily ways to practice it. Here are some suggestions:
Start a gratitude journal. Write down your blessings. Reflect on ways God has blessed you. Restful sleep? Nutritious food? Christian friends? A loving family? You’ll find your blessings are too numerous to list.
Recognize your blessings. Similar to a journal, but throughout the day, be aware of how God is blessing you. Perhaps it’s delicious food, a Christian hymn, a beautiful sunset, faith and trust in God. The list is endless. When you thank God throughout the day, you develop a stronger relationship with Him. And the more we are aware of the blessings, the easier it is to notice these gifts.
Teach children to be thankful. Whether for your own children, grandchildren or those in church, set an example of being a grateful person. Be positive about life — never negative. Look for the good in people — never the bad. As you interact with children, point out things for which you are thankful.
Memorize scripture. Commit to memory those Bible verses that thank God for His greatness, His love, His care. The natural world God created — the sun, rain, gentle breeze, trees. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … .” (James 1:17).
What the Bible says about gratitude
One of the most recurring themes of the Bible is how we should thank God for His goodness and mercy. These verses reflect that:
- “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). In everything means both the good and the not-so-good; in joy and sorrow. Sometimes in the valleys of life, we learn lessons otherwise not seen when we are on the mountaintop. Thank Him for the difficulties as well as the blessings. Scripture overflows with how we should be grateful and show thanksgiving to God.
- “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34). What a promise! Forever, forever and forever. His love has no end. God will love us for all eternity.
- “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Ps. 68:19). Another word for “praise” is glorify, honor, worship, exalt or Nothing is too small or insufficient for God. He is concerned about our problems or issues.
- “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). As families gather during the Thanksgiving season, keep the bonds of love strong within your household. Do not grow tired or weary of taking care of family through sickness or trouble. Continue to do good and you will know the love of Christ.
- “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). Can you imagine anything as wonderful as eternal life? And that God forgave our sins so we would have eternal life with Him?
Do you know?
There are numerous Bible characters whose lives were examples of being thankful. Do you know these stories? Could you share these examples with the children in your life?
- The healed leper
- Mary, the mother of Jesus
- The woman at the well
- Sarah, wife of Abraham
Being grateful and developing a spirit of thanksgiving are not things to practice only during this season of the year. They should be celebrated every day, every hour.
Scripture is from the NIV.