Though our US holiday of Thanksgiving is over, giving thanks should continue. This year I saw some benefits to thanksgiving, some of which I don’t remember noticing before.
Thanksgiving reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing all year long. A man in our Sunday School class shared how the Lord delivered him from a life-threatening illness. Then he remarked, “I should be thanking and praising God every day, but I take this gift for granted.” We all do that, don’t we?
Thanksgiving reminds us where our gifts come from. We forget that even a good job, the availability of good food, clean water, warm beds, family, and so much more, are gifts from God. They could all be taken away in a moment.
Thanksgiving reminds us how God has led or provided for us in the past, through both good and bad times. As people shared testimonies in our midweek service, they tended to recall special moments in the past where God’s help was especially displayed. I call these “Ebenezer moments.” In 1 Samuel 7, after God delivered Israel from the Philistines, Samuel set up a memorial stone and called it Ebenezer, meaning “stone of help.” A few years ago, I was inspired to make a list of “Ebenezer” moments. Going over that list inspires love and praise to God for how He has worked in my life. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).
Thanksgiving needs to be intentional. Maybe some people are naturally geared towards gratefulness. But most of us notice the problems, irritations, and imperfections of life first. In Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback, she says this: “If we are not looking for the good things, we may fail to see them when they come. That’s part of why thankfulness is so important. Offering thanks to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, is a way of acknowledging that he knows exactly what he is doing and that we can trust him” (p. 28, Kindle version).
Thanksgiving isn’t always a feeling. Another quote from Lydia’s book: “Sometimes thankfulness is a choice we make rather than a feeling we have” (p. 28).
Thanksgiving leads to more thanksgiving. Once you start looking for things to be thankful for, your list keeps growing. At the testimony service mentioned above, after everyone had a chance to share, people started saying, “His story reminds of the time God did this. . . “
Thanksgiving melts away our worries. When we remind ourselves of the ways God has helped and provided for us in the past, we’re encouraged to trust Him for the present and future.
Thanksgiving recalibrates our perspective. I can’t find the source now, but I recently read of a woman who was having an awful start to her day. On her way to work, she began deliberately looking for things to be thankful for. By the time she arrived, her mood and outlook had completely changed.
Thanksgiving shared with others increases opportunities to glorify God. As we heard each others’ stories at our testimony service, we thanked God not just for what He did for us, but also for what He did for others. “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Thanksgiving shared knits hearts together. Testimony services leave us not only with warm feelings towards God, but also towards each other.
So let thanksgiving continue! Let’s make it a point to look for God’s hand and thank Him as often as we can.
Have you found these or any other benefits to giving thanks?
We know thanksgiving is not just a day in November, but it is an activity we’re supposed to engage in year-round. But our annual thankful holiday does help turn our thoughts a more grateful direction.
In past years I’ve made lists of what I am thankful for throughout November, either once a day or all on Thanksgiving Day. I usually ended up with pretty much the same items on my list. That’s fine. We should continue to be thankful for what we have every year.
It’s harder to be thankful some years. Health issues cropped up, loved ones are no longer with us, finances have taken a downturn. The Bible speaks of the “sacrifice of praise”: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15). I’ve often wondered at that wording. “Sacrifice” hearkens back to some of the OT sacrifices, but here it is applied specifically to praise. I’ve thought that perhaps it’s a sacrifice because we have to turn our attention from ourselves to God. But maybe it’s also a sacrifice because we do it whether or not we “feel” it. Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “To give thanks is not the same as ‘feeling thankful.’ To give thanks in the midst of pain and problems is to take a step of faith based on the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: God tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (not just those we can handle or feel on top of). For what things can you give thanks, even while you’re hurting?”
C. S. Lewis said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because is it good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility, and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
One year I did a study on thanks and thanksgiving in the Bible.Just one aspect of it was noticing what people in the Bible thanked God for. It’s perfectly fine to thank God for material blessings and the people He has placed in our lives. But we can expand our thanks to include:
Attributes of God Himself
God’s goodness. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (I Chronicles 16:34; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136)
God’s holiness. “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Psalm 30:4, KJV)
God’s righteous judgments. At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments. (Psalm 119: 62, KJV)
God’s greatness. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3)
God’s power and reign. “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was,for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17)
God’s love and wonderful works. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:21-2)
What God gives us or does for us
Saving us. “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:12-14)
Bearing us. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)
Victory over death. “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O death, where is your victory?O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)
Deliverance from mourning. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)
Comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Causing us to triumph, making Himself known through us. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, KJV)
God’s provision, enough for ourselves plus for giving to others. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
God’s inexpressible gift. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Food. “. . . foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5)
Authorities. Really? Yes: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
“But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” (2 Corinthians 8:16)
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . .” (Ephesians 1:16)
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4) (See also I Thessalonians 1:1-3; 3:9-10; II Thessalonians 2:13-14.)
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)
This is probably just the tip of the iceberg! I’m sure further study would reveal even more things to be thankful for in the Bible.
I’ve been looking for a quote that I thought came from Martin Luther, but I can’t seem to find it with various searches. But it went something like this: God saved me when I didn’t deserve it. I could and should thank Him eternally for just that. Anything else He gives me or does for me after that is just extra blessings. (If you know this quote, please share in the comments. I would be so grateful.) We’re truly “loaded with benefits”: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19, KJV).
No doubt August Storm had done a thanksgiving study of his own when he composed this hymn in 1891:
Thanks to God for my Redeemer, Thanks for all Thou dost provide! Thanks for times now but a memory, Thanks for Jesus by my side! Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime, Thanks for dark and stormy fall! Thanks for tears by now forgotten, Thanks for peace within my soul!
Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered, Thanks for what Thou dost deny! Thanks for storms that I have weathered, Thanks for all Thou dost supply! Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure, Thanks for comfort in despair! Thanks for grace that none can measure, Thanks for love beyond compare!
Thanks for roses by the wayside, Thanks for thorns their stems contain! Thanks for home and thanks for fireside, Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain! Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow, Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee! Thanks for hope in the tomorrow, Thanks through all eternity!
Here’s some noteworthy reads I’ve come across recently. Perhaps you’ll find something that speaks to you here.
With Thanksgiving coming up, naturally there are a lot of posts about being thankful and content. A few of the best:
Secret to a Contented Heart. “Satan doesn’t come at most of us with temptations to take drugs or rob banks. His main temptation is to rob our joy and rob God of glory by keeping a bunch of unhappy, complaining, whining women on the loose.” (Ouch—in a good way.)
How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Chaos. “I am tempted to cancel Thanksgiving this year…I toyed with the idea for a whole 10 minutes, and then I remembered escaping from reality is never a healthy decision. Plus, the Holy Spirit also reminded me that I am called to let my little light shine in dark places. Sometimes those dark places are at the dinner table with stuffing and cranberry sauce.”
What if You Lost What You Weren’t Thankful For. “What people would you miss if you hadn’t taken time to thank God for them? Not just the ones in your family, but the ones who grow your food, repair your car, treat your illness, and serve your coffee.”
There Are No Extraordinary Means, HT to Challies. “What we want are extraordinary fixes to ordinary problems. In this desire we miss the reality that there’s always something else to fix, there’s always something else to do, and there’s always something we’ll miss. Looking for extraordinary means is a roadmap to variously intense levels of personal frustration. Ordinary means of grace are sufficient because our problems are ordinary.”
“Worthy?” also HT to Challies. This deals with the idea that we tend to come to God when we feel worthy and avoid coming when we don’t feel worthy. “Are you worthy? No. But Jesus doesn’t require fitness from you. You only have to feel your need of him. You only have to see that his worthiness is sufficient for you.”
Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:
Imperfections Make Sundays More Beautiful, HT to Challies. “I’ll admit it: these human quirks and errors sometimes exasperate me. I’m here to focus on the Lord! Your awkwardness is distracting me from worship! So mutters my self-righteous heart. Perhaps the real problem isn’t with the clumsiness of others, but with our expectations for corporate worship.”
As we look ahead to Thanksgiving in the US this week:
There seems to be a theme running through most of the posts I’ve read concerning Thanksgiving so far this year: the fact that thankfulness isn’t an emotion, but an act of the will, and not always easy. Here are a few:
Gratitude Is a Gift for All Seasons. “To intentionally call to mind images of gratitude in the midst of peace and prosperity is one thing, but it takes a sinewy faith to summon them when chaos reigns and the future looks bleak.”