Although we’re still in the Thanksgiving weekend, Thanksgiving Day has passed. On Thursday, prayers of thankfulness were lifted to Heaven, and families observed special Thanksgiving traditions. Perhaps everyone at the table was asked to state what they were most thankful for during the past year. Maybe individuals sent thank-you notes to people for services or kindnesses. Guests may have told of acts of gratitude or thanksgiving they have performed.
Having a special day to focus on showing our appreciation for our blessings is wonderful. Showing our gratitude through holiday traditions makes us consider all we have to be thankful for. However, what about the other 364 days of the year? Do we feel like we’ve fulfilled our obligation of gratitude with our Thanksgiving prayers and traditions?
Scripture tells us:
Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:20
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! … Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!Chronicles 16:8, 34
Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.Philippians 4:6
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.Timothy 2:1
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:5
Note that we are told to give thanks always and for everything, in all circumstances, and for all people. We’re usually willing to give thanks for things we perceive as good, in circumstances that we find favorable, and for people we like. But if we find it difficult to give thanks for situations we consider unfavorable or for people we don’t like, we are implying that we know better than God.
If we understand that God is sovereign, we know that nothing happens to us without the Lord allowing it. He may be preparing us for something He has planned for our future. He may be teaching us a lesson, leading us to make a change in our lives, or something else that we can’t even imagine.
When I had a stroke at the age of forty-five at the hands of a chiropractor, my first impulse was not to thank God. However, since then I’ve given thanks many times: for the love showed to me by my family, friends, and staff; for every small step in therapy that led to becoming functional again after being told I could remain totally helpless for the rest of my life; for my employees keeping my company in business during my absence; for realizing that this was the “someday” I was waiting for to start writing. Looking back now, I see so much good that came from what I thought was terrible at the time. So sometimes maintaining an attitude of gratitude is simply acknowledging that things are better this month than last or this year than last.
However, that is not always the case. Maybe nothing seems to change—or it even gets worse. If we are observant, though, we can still find things to be grateful for: a beautiful sunshiny day, a phone call or visit from someone we miss, a kind word from a stranger, a good meal, medical treatment that may be painful but in the long term will make us better …
We can still maintain an attitude of gratitude no matter how bad things seem if we truly believe that God is good, that He loves us with an everlasting love, that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He forgives our sins, and that He gives us eternal life. One day we will join God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—for eternity. We will have no pain or sorrow or fear—only love and joy and peace.
Paul tells us in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” If we could see a timeline of our lives, we would realize that the time we spend on earth is only a tiny dot in an endless line through eternity. When we don’t have an attitude of gratitude, we are acting as if the tiny dot is more important than the infinity to come. We are placing more importance on our difficulties and problems of today than on the glory of Heaven and eternity.
We can’t just tell ourselves to have an attitude of gratitude, but we can remind ourselves of the reasons we should be grateful and give thanks as commanded in Scripture. We can look ahead to our future forever and ever with the Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ in the eternal Kingdom. Doing this regularly and reminding ourselves when we forget will help us to develop an attitude of gratitude.
Heavenly Father, we come to You today to give You thanks. We often come to ask something of You, but the only thing we ask today is You help us to develop an attitude of gratitude. We want to thank You for everything in all circumstances. Thank You for the blessings we recognize and appreciate—a safe and comfortable place to live, plenty of food and clothing, loving family and friends, for being able to do things we enjoy; and the Christian fellowship with our fellow believers at Timberhill and in our home churches. Thank You for the blessings we often overlook—the very air we breathe, the beauty of nature, the kindness of those around us, the time and effort of those who serve us and care for us. Thank You most of all, Lord, for the salvation that we have because of the sacrifice of Your Son Christ our Lord, for the righteousness that is imputed to us because of His righteousness, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, for the access to pray directly to You and to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and for the future we look forward to with You in the eternal New Heaven and New Earth. Thank You for everything that You have allowed into our lives, even if we see these things as negative, and for everything that You have not allowed into lives, even if we think it would have been good for us to receive them. Forgive us for presuming to act like we know better when we think You should have protected us from something that You allowed us to endure or when we think You should have allowed us when You denied. We acknowledge that Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts and Your ways are higher than our ways. We know that You are a good God who loves us with an everlasting love, and we trust that whatever You allow into our lives is for our good. Believing that, Father, we will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, develop an attitude of gratitude. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.