Of course, we should all be thankful – not just at Thanksgiving but every week of the year. But if we’re honest with ourselves, are we typically thankful or thank-full? Trust me, there is a huge difference.
Being thankful for the good things we feel God has given us is really just being glad we are benefiting from those good things and get to enjoy them. Being thankful when times are good and problems are minimal is pretty easy. In fact, admittedly, most of my life, although problems or adversities were always around of course, it usually felt pretty natural and easy to feel thankful and express thankfulness to God for my many blessings.
But over the past couple years, I’ve finally learned that being truly thankful requires looking beyond the blessings we can see and touch to focus on the holy One who blesses. 1 Chronicles 16:34 say “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Notice this command doesn’t say give thanks to the Lord, when times are good. But rather, give thanks because He is good. It doesn’t say give thanks because you love every aspect of your life, but because God loves you and His love endures forever. So often we forget that basic principle when life gets rough because during difficult times it can be hard to feel thankful, but much less thank-full.
But God doesn’t want us to be thankful “when we feel like it.” He doesn’t want us to feel blessed simply because we think we should be or only when life is skipping along perfectly, but rather because He is who He says He is – no matter what. We shouldn’t be thankful only when our prayers seem to be met, but also for what He might not have done yet while believing He heard those prayers and is carefully choosing the right way to answer. We shouldn’t be thankful when circumstances are good, but then feel forgotten by God when circumstances are difficult or even heartbreaking, as if suddenly God is no longer blessing us. Those are reasons why not to be thankful.
Thankfulness is one thing, but having a heart that is truly “thank-full” takes much more intentionality and has to be grounded in unwavering faith with no strings attached. Being full of thanks for God, is the one thing we can all be truly thank-full for.
God has taught me a lot of things the last few years about thankfulness. I’ve learned to be thankful for the things that truly matter, rather than the material things I used to feel were important. I’ve learned to feel immense gratitude for the people in my life and for having a Savior who will never leave me, even when others do. I’ve also learned to trust God like never before and see blessings in the most unusual of ways. But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the midst of great loss, heartache, change and seemingly unanswered prayers, is that true thankfulness – the kind that delights God – bubbles up without effort from a heart full of gratitude for Christ Himself, not merely one full of appreciation for the physical blessings He has given.
Maybe this Thanksgiving, especially if life is challenging or you’re still waiting for God to move in your life, bless a certain situation, restore a relationship or meet a need, you can embrace a more thank-full perspective by focusing on the Giver of all gifts, instead of the gifts themselves.
When we focus on who God is, instead of what He gives or does, it becomes easier and more natural to love the Blesser far more than the actual blessings.
As promised in today’s Proverbs 31 devotion,Don’t Let Details Distract You From Thankfulness, below are some tips for having a thank-full heart this holiday season, and details on how to enter to win a copy of Unsinkable Faith plus a journal you can use for recording all the things and reasons you are grateful for.
- Try to pray without asking God for anything. Focus on gratitude and thanking Him for who He is first, then all the blessings you enjoy.
- Complaining sabotages thankfulness. Ask God to help you be more aware of when you are feeling tempted to complain, or help you catch yourself when you’re in the mode of complaining. Instead of complaining or thinking negative thoughts, immediately look for the silver lining in whatever you’re complaining about or try to find at least one positive thing you can thank God for instead.
- Make a list of all the people in your life who are truly grateful for. Tell them how you feel this week.
- Make a list of difficult circumstances you’ve faced this year (things that you typically would not be thankful for.) Now thank God for that circumstance and ask Him to help you see something good that came out of it. Commit to trusting in His ways even if you don’t understand them.
- Count your blessings (tangible and intangible) one by one. Write them down. Keep this list handy every day or stick it on your fridge so when frustrations and disappointments happen, you’ll be quickly reminded that despite it all, you still have much to be thankful for. Count your blessings, but focus on the Blesser most of all.