Thankfulness. At this time of year, giving thanks is on our minds even more than usual. In this country, the term thanksgiving conjures up images of Pilgrims and native Americans breaking bread together in celebration of cooperation, new friendships, and a successful harvest. Today, Thanksgiving is when we come together as family (and friends who have become family) to break bread together in celebration of what family means to each of us. It involves traditions which are usually similar (a family get-together over a scrumptious meal, often involving turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes/pumpkin) but also unique to each individual family (tofurkey instead of turkey, watching football in between meals, playing board games.)
But what does the Bible say about thankfulness? Depending on the version you are studying, some form of thank is mentioned more than 140 times. So, it’s a pretty important concept. And what does that precious instruction manual for life tell us we should be thankful for?
· His unfailing love (Psalm 107:21)
· His wonderful deeds for mankind
· His steadfast love in the morning (Psalm 92:1-2)
· His faithfulness by night
· His goodness (Psalm 136:1)
· His love which endures forever
· Our deliverance from our enemies (Psalm 30)
· His healing power
· Our salvation
· Our joy
· Every good and perfect gift
That’s a lot to be thankful for! And yet, it isn’t always easy. As I’ve mentioned before, a favorite Bible study of mine is Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. That study taught me to find something to be grateful for every day, regardless of how awful the day has been. So that’s how I start my evening prayers—finding at least one thing to be grateful for. Most of the time, I find a lot to thank God for; but even on those days when I struggle, I make sure to find at least one. In addition to the big-picture items listed above, here are some more which I am grateful for every, single day of my life:
· My parents, who not only gave me life but gave me a wonderful one, filled with love, laughter, precious memories, and the belief that I can be a success at whatever I strive for.
· My sister, who has known me her entire life and who still loves me anyway.
· My husband, who brought me to God in the first place and who is a wonderful provider and partner.
· My children, who delighted me when they were young and continue to do so now and who make me proud every day.
· My grandchildren who light up my world just by being in it and who keep me feeling young.
· My extended family who makes me feel welcome and loved in spite of the physical distance between us.
· My friends and prayer warriors who celebrate with me during the ups and keep me steady and spiritually strong during the downs of this life.
According to Voskamp, “Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. Gratitude is a declaration that God is good, no matter what happens.” Remembering that is one way that we can be grateful, even when there seems to be little to be grateful for. The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, admonished them to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
And, of course, this isn’t just good advice; it’s the best advice since no one knows better than the Creator how to live the lives He has given us. But since we as humans often need proof instead of just faith, there have been studies which show a correlation between gratefulness and happiness—but not in the way you might think. “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful,” Voskamp relates in her book. And that’s just what the study showed—that people who are grateful, regardless of their circumstances, tend to be happier.
On the flipside, being ungrateful is listed among a slew of ugly behaviors in 2 Timothy 3:1-4. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
When being grateful has such a positive influence on our lives, as well as those in our circle, and being ungrateful does not bode well for us in Scripture, why in the world would we choose any other way?