When people think of thanksgiving, they likely think of Pilgrims, not prayer; drumsticks, not doctrine. Even the holiday of Thanksgiving gets minimized and skipped over. Black Friday has taken over Thanksgiving Day for many people. The morning started with gratitude for what we have, but by evening, we’re thinking about what we want next. In our day and age of more-more-more, where “Thanksgiving” is the waiting season between Halloween and Christmas, gratitude takes a back seat.
It’s no surprise it struggles to compete for attention with a holiday where I get to make a list of things people will buy me. It’s easy to blame the world, but I’ll admit my guilt. I know God is the source of everything in my life. That doesn’t mean thanksgiving makes it into my day-to-day rhythms like it should. I take gifts for granted and ignore His work on my behalf. When I don’t get what I want, I complain and feel cheated. I’m quick to gripe and groan.
We Need Gratitude
To fight our inclination toward grumbling, we need gratitude. While we talk to God a lot about what we want, we also must give thanks to God for who He is and what He’s done. We not only say “please” in our prayers but we also say “thank You.”
As the psalmist says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Ps. 92:1). Not only is it right to give thanks, but it’s good to do so. It’s good because it glorifies God and bolsters our faith. It confesses everything we have ultimately comes from God (1 Cor. 4:7). It’s good because it chooses joy over discontentment. We trust God in His wisdom and kindness for what He gives and allows (Phil. 4:4–13). And it’s good because giving thanks opens a door to greater intimacy with God (Pss. 31:7; 100:4–5).
Are You Interested?
Are you interested in these things: more joy, less discontentment and envy, and a deeper walk with God?
While commending thanksgiving, I also want to caution us. Many books and articles equate thanksgiving with naming blessings. The focus becomes goodies rather than God. “I’m thankful for family. I’m thankful for church. I’m thankful for pumpkin pie and all its various spin-offs.” I’m not the thanksgiving police here to slap anyone on the wrist, but I’d like to move from being thankful for stuff to also (and especially) being thankful to God. The object of our gratitude needs to expand from something to someone.
Acknowledging God’s gifts is a great place to start. But we can’t reduce giving thanks to identifying blessings. Biblical thanksgiving involves recognizing reasons to give thanks and then expressing gratitude to God for them. As you seek to grow in thanksgiving, recognize God as the source of anything you’re grateful for, and reflect on what these gifts tell you about Him. Thanksgiving moves from realizing what God has done to revering Him as a God who does such things. It’s good to give thanks to God for His provision. It’s even better to see God’s generous heart towards His children. It’s good to give thanks to God for the spiritual blessing of adoption in Christ. But it’s even better to delight in the God who clears our charges and embraces us in His loving arms.
When we give thanks, we acknowledge something to be from the Lord and we adore Him through it. There’s an acknowledgment of a gift as well as being affected by it.
Become more aware of God’s work in and around you, and get to know Him through those works. Let thankfulness lead to a closer friendship, heartfelt worship, and heightened trust. Practicing thanksgiving will push you nearer to the heart of God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Knowing and loving God is the ultimate goal.
If you read this and can list off blessings all day long, but they don’t inch your heart closer to God, then it’s incomplete. If your perspective changes and you can turn lemons into lemonade with the best of them, but you can’t turn gifts into gratitude, then something hasn’t clicked. Thanksgiving aims to get our eyes on God. To redirect our heart from grumbling to gratitude, we must know the Giver of every good gift.
Adapted from The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of a Lost Spiritual Discipline by Dustin Crowe (©2020). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.