by Geoff King

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving season is upon us. In a matter of weeks, you will more than likely be gathered around the table with extended family, loved ones, and friends to celebrate the many things that you’re thankful for. As you gather, your eyes glisten at the sight of your favorite dish and your nostrils flare as you take in the best combinations of smells of the entire year. For me, the thoughts of my mother’s warm Central-Alabama based dressing are beginning to circulate through my mind, bringing about a salivating anticipation. Ahhh, it’s most certainly a favorite time of year for many.

Although Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, for many of us who call Jesus ‘Lord’, it has become a sweet time of posturing our hearts to remember the goodness of God and express adoration, thanks, and gratitude for all He has done and is doing in our lives. Around the table, one by one in reflection, via prayer, a shared word, or a combination of them all, people express thanks to God.

If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed something happens when you pause – prior to digging in – to give thanks on the day of Thanksgiving...the mood shifts. Often, the hustle of getting dishes done, tables set, and people arranged all become secondary and less important as you begin to hear and share the expressive adorations of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Why is that? Well, it's because a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude changes things.

According to psychologist Robert Emmons- the leading researcher in the field- thanksgiving and gratitude can change our lives - the way we think, respond, engage and give. Specifically, Emmons says that gratitude can have a lasting positive impact if we work towards incorporating it into the rhythms of our day. By leaning into what we’re thankful for, research shows that stress reduces, self-esteem increases, and relationships improve. I mean, who doesn’t want that in the holiday season?! But more than that – we can experience this far beyond the holiday season.

God’s Word encourages us to, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18). Friends, giving thanks is part of God’s will for us. It’s of His design, of His plan, of His longing for us. His will is that we would be a people that turn our hearts to the things of Him and from Him, so that we give thanks regardless of the circumstances that we are currently experiencing.

But that can be hard, can’t it?

We know some of the circumstances of life: Your kids aren’t listening, your basement won’t stop flooding, your diagnosis is troubling, or your relationship(s) are struggling. These are the circumstances we face, so of course sometimes we murmur “I am supposed to give thanks in this hard circumstance, Lord? That's your will?” Yeah, it is. And you want to know why? Because God – who knew and formed every bit of your being, including your moods and brain – knew that a heart and mind fixated on His goodness EVEN in the midst of whatever your circumstance is, can change things.

A journal entry written about where you’ve recognized God’s beauty in His creation, capped with “Thank you God”, can blind the dark blots of ugliness you may be experiencing....

A word of prayer from God’s Word expressing, “Because of your great love I am not consumed, for your compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (a)” capped with a “Thank you God”, can right size the reality of His presence with you...

A humming or singing of, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” capped with a “Thank you God” can remind you that the of light of Living God shines upon you.

Have you given it a try? Will you?

Thankfulness allows us to notice what God has given us. And as we begin to think about what we should be thankful for our eyes are then opened to the generosity of God. The end result is this beautiful revelation of how much we’ve been given that in turn, leads us to realize how much God is worthy of our praise.

As we prepare our stomachs and belts to partake in our upcoming Thanksgiving meals, I want to invite us to equally prepare our hearts to give thanks to God in all circumstances. The holiday season can be long, busy, and for some, it can be emotionally hard. Lean on the Lord. Ask Him to redirect you back to His goodness and faithfulness – He’s worthy of praise and giving Him the thanks, He is due, can change us.

"I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High." Psalm 7:17

Food for Action

Here are some practical ways we can go about living lives of thanksgiving and gratitude:

1. Recognize His Hand

To give thanksgiving unto God we must recognize His hand in our lives. A great idea is to get out a piece of paper (or open a new document) and number your blessings one by one.

As you count your blessings, be specific. Name individual family members and friends. Think of your life, health, and home. Think about your skills, talents, education, and job. Think about those times that seemed like a coincidence; did you overlook God's hand in your life? Did you think of God's greatest gift, His Son, Jesus Christ?

With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever. Psalm 136:12

2. Keep a Gratitude Journal

An excellent way to show thanksgiving to God is by keeping a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is more than just a list of your blessings, but a way to record what God has done for you on a daily basis. Set a time aside each day to simply say, “Lord I am grateful for ______”. Then, recall your moments of gratitude at the end of each week.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:2

3. Set a ‘Serve Others’ Rhythm

One of the most profound ways in which we can truly give thanksgiving to God is through serving him by serving others. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Thus, we know that serving others is a way of serving God, and an expression of our gratitude of how much He’s given us.

Ask God how he may be asking you serve others once each month as an expression of your thankfulness for what He has given you.
NOTES: (a) Lamentations 3:22-23

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