“I think that is a better thing than thanksgiving: thanks-living. How is this to be done? By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual, constant delighting of ourselves in the Lord, and by a submission of our desires to His will.” – Charles Spurgeon
Thanksgiving season is upon us! Harvest decorations are everywhere, everyone is purchasing a turkey (or tofurkey) and the nip in the air tells me it is time to give thanks! We Americans are programmed to feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciative in November. I wonder why we become grateful in the eleventh month when there is so much to thank God and others for throughout the year.
Though it is wonderful to have a season dedicated to thanks, we would all do well to show gratitude daily. And, I think we want to! Occasionally we run into grumps who live a Bah Humbug experience, but most of us wish we would take more time to smell the roses and appreciate our blessings. The good news is we can; and, if we make it a habit, we will!
Thankfulness Can Save Relationships
It is our nature to grumble and find fault, especially when our partners fail to meet our needs; but, when we show gratitude, even when we have 100 reasons to be frustrated or angry, it benefits our relationships in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it eases our loved one’s heart and makes him or her feel appreciated – something we all long to feel. And, secondly, it changes our hearts. Where we focus our attention is where our hearts turn. For example, if we turn our attention to God’s word, our hearts grow closer to His; but, when we focus on ungodly entertainment, unsavory friendships, or dwell on temptations, our hearts grow cold and distant from God. When we choose to find reasons to be appreciative, our affections for our loved ones deepen; but, when we choose to wallow in all the ways they have failed us, we grow bitter and resentful.
But you do not know my partner, Heather. If you did, you would realize there is no reason for me to show appreciation.
If you are not yet married, my first question for you is: “If you think that, should you continue in your relationship with this person?” If you are in a relationship but cannot think of reasons to be thankful for (and to) your partner, it may not be a good long-term plan to continue dating or remain engaged. If you are content to remain in the relationship, my second question is: “How much effort have you put into finding reasons to appreciate your significant other?” Does he or she bring extremely little to the relationship – or, do you tend to highlight your sweetheart’s negative qualities over positive ones?
Let’s get the juices flowing with some questions….
Does your sweetheart…?
- Work hard in his or her job, putting money away for your future together?
- Bring a bright spot to your day with thoughtful texts or calls?
- Help you with projects or support your endeavors?
- Run errands for you on occasion?
- Care for you when you are sick, even if just by making you smile?
- Treat your parents and friends with respect?
- Compliment your appearance or accomplishments?
- Follow you home during inclement weather?
- Do chores you hate to give you a break?
- Surprise you on occasion with a random gift or date?
- Watch certain shows or movies just because you like them?
- Give you the last eggroll, breadstick, or bite of cake?
- Take care of your pet when you are out of town or stuck at work?
- Remember special dates?
- Scrape the ice or snow off of your car?
- Change little habits because they annoy you?
- Make you laugh?
- Encourage you when you are trying to get in shape?
- Go to events with you when he or she would rather stay home and rest?
- Put your needs ahead of his or hers?
These ideas are only meant to get your thoughts flowing. Your significant other may not do everything listed above, but he or she is probably “guilty” of some of them. What else does your lady or gentleman contribute to your relationship or the world for which you can be thankful? Once you have a list, present it to him or her as a keepsake.
Gratitude Can Save Lives
In college, we had a guest speaker – a senior pastor – who told a story which has stuck with me ever since. He received a call one night from a frantic husband whose wife was on the verge of committing suicide. She was locked in the closet, deeply despaired, and did not believe there was any reason to keep living. As expected, this pastor rushed to the scene and tried his best to convince his parishioner to hold onto hope and abort her plan.
As he was speaking to her, the thought came to his mind, “Have her list the reasons she has to be thankful.” So, he stood at the closet door and said, “If you cannot think of 100 reasons to be thankful, I will leave you alone, and you can go through with your plan.” She was most likely hesitant but agreed to his conditions. As she began listing her blessings, more blessings came to mind. By the end, she was expressing gratitude for random objects like socks, but her mood was much brighter. Before she could make it to a hundred, she emerged from the closet crying and embraced her husband. There is power in gratitude.
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7, ESV, emphasis mine)
This year, let’s challenge ourselves to show gratitude to each other and gratitude to the Lord on a regular basis. When we feel tempted to grumble about our partners’ failures, instead let’s say something positive about them. When we feel compelled to dwell on the blessings God has not seen fit to give us, let’s verbally thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. As Christ-followers, our lifestyle should be one of thanksgiving. We have every reason to be on our faces, tearfully pouring out gratitude to our Lord and Savior for His sacrifice.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7, ESV)
How will you remind yourself to show thankfulness daily? A refrigerator note? A gratitude challenge with a friend? A moment of thanks pause alarm on your phone? What are your ideas?
What if we turned every occasion to grumble into an occasion to show gratefulness? How would our moods improve? Our relationships? Our walk with the Lord? How many mental health problems could be eased or even cured by instituting a daily practice of giving thanks? How many relationships would experience restoration if there was constant appreciation instead of constant judgment? How many sleepless nights would give way to sweet rest if our hearts were full of thankfulness?
Will you find a way to be grateful every day?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)
How will you turn your seasonal gratitude into daily gratitude?