The Bible is overflowing with admonitions to “give thanks.”
In Old Testament times, the Israelites were encouraged to give offerings of thanksgiving to the Lord of their own free will (see Leviticus 23:29). Whole chapters of the book of Psalms are dedicated to praising the Lord for His goodness and mercy. And Paul, writing to the New Testament Christians, exhorted, “Rejoice always. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God…for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 NKJV). Clearly, giving thanks should be a part of my daily life, a facet of who I am. In fact, thankfulness should be my way of life. But what does it mean to be thankful?
Clearly, giving thanks should be a part of my daily life, a facet of who I am. In fact, thankfulness should be my way of life.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “thanksgiving” can be both an expression of gratitude and a celebration of divine goodness. I am quite familiar with the first idea. I learned as little child to say “thank you” when someone did me a favor, and I know how to praise God for the good things He has done in my life. But what about the second part?
This past week was a high one for me. The sunshine finally visited our island home, and I spent much of my time outside. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the weather is spending time in the pool, soaking in the sunshine and the smell of the salty water. Other special times were spent sitting around a bonfire in the back yard, roasting veggie hotdogs and singing campfire songs with my family. When I wasn’t outside, I spent many happy moments on FaceTime with my sister, listening to her two little babies chatter and giggle and watching their smiling faces.
Everything was truly perfect. I felt God’s face smiling down on me through the golden rays of the sun, heard His voice speaking to me in the cracking of the fire and the harmonious strains of music, and saw His creativity at work through the growing characters of my sweet niece and nephew. Thankfulness was easy this week. Easier than it has been in a long time. I could hardly go one moment of the day without thinking of how incredibly blessed and privileged I am.
But, to be honest, my life is not always like this. Some weeks I struggle to find the good in anything that happens. Some days the hours drag by and each minute feels like an eternity. Sometimes I feel like everything is going wrong, my future is bleak, and I have no hope to keep me going. Does God expect me to be thankful in these times? Does He really want me to praise Him for crushed hopes, frustrated plans, and broken relationships?
To answer this question, I must revisit the meaning of thankfulness. Although it can be an expression of gratitude, there is another way to look at it: a celebration of divine goodness. Could it be that in those times when it seems I have nothing to be grateful for, I can still celebrate the goodness of God? Of course! God’s goodness to me is not tied to any physical aspect of my life. It is not defined by the weather, my friendships, or material goods. God’s goodness to me was shown in full measure by the gift of life through His Son, and that gift is renewed every day when He wakes me up in the morning and meets me to spend time together.
Could it be that in those times when it seems I have nothing to be grateful for, I can still celebrate the goodness of God?
The truth is, no matter what circumstances I am in, I can always praise God for His life in me and overflow with gratitude for His gift of salvation. This understanding has revolutionized my life, and prompted me to raise my voice in praise and thanksgiving to God each and every day — to make thankfulness my way of life.
So, here’s my challenge to each of you this week: find something to praise God for. If you can’t think of any blessings you’ve received or gifts God has given you, then thank Him for the sacrifice of His Son and for a new life in Him. You’ll be amazed how thrilling a life of thankfulness really is!