As we are in the thicket of the Thanksgiving holiday season, sometimes it can be easy to get caught up or even lost in all the celebrating. Or we might just find ourselves silently asking, "What is all of this really about anyway?" After all, the motions of life do not stand still simply because it's Thanksgiving Day. We don't want to seem ungrateful, but the truth is many of the same problems, hardships, and troubles facing us on Thanksgiving Eve will still be there the day after Thanksgiving.
So how do we authentically experience a thankful Thanksgiving? And as Christians, how can we spread gratitude to others this Thanksgiving? It starts with our choice to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We can choose gratitude amid our present reality and not disregard, downplay, or disengage from the very life we are trying to navigate. Our current reality is not a permanent life sentence of doom, disappointment, darkness, discouragement, or defeat. This truth is good news and reminds us of the eternal hope we have in Jesus. Despite the trials and tribulations we may face in this life, we recognize that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and comforted as citizens of God's kingdom. Knowing this offers us great assurance and affirms so many reasons to give thanks.
Hebrews 12:28 (CEV) tells us, "We should be grateful we were given a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And in this kingdom, we please God by worshiping him and by showing him great honor and respect."
This is why we can choose to be grateful. We don't have to be shaken by the challenges of life. Instead, we can prompt our thinking and prime our heart towards a posture of gratitude as we remind ourselves why we are thankful to begin with, what Thanksgiving means to us personally, and be free to define how giving thanks looks in our individual lives.
One way we can make a heart connection with gratitude is by allowing our spirit to be inspired by the words of others. I want to challenge you to meditate on one quote each day with me from now through the end of November. Spreading gratitude and giving thanks is bigger than Thanksgiving Day. Let's take these simple quotes as an invitation to reflect upon what being thankful and grateful truly means to us. And let's not stop there, but let's take it a little further by spreading gratitude to others. You may text one of these quotes to a friend or journal your thoughts and send it to someone you love. However the Holy Spirit moves you, accept it as an opportunity to receive more joy and gratitude as you share with others this Thanksgiving.
"Thanksgiving with the mouth stirs up thankfulness in the heart." – John Piper
One sure way to provoke our hearts to thankfulness is to express thankfulness with our lips. Many times, we don't "feel" like talking, or we may not be in the mood to give thanks, but that does not mean we have to give yield to ourselves in that moment. If we initiate saying thank you to God from our mouths, it will only be a matter of time before our hearts catch up and re-align with sincere gratitude. Psalm 34:1 teaches us, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Let us learn to speak the language of thankfulness no matter what.
"God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks - not because of the situation, but because of the One who directs and rules over it." - Kay Arthur
When we feel unable to thank God for undesirable circumstances in our lives, we can still choose to thank Him while going through them. Why? Because He is God and, therefore, sovereignly in control of everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (KJV) tells us, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
We may not always want to give thanks because of everything we encounter, but we can learn how to give thanks in everything we experience. We can find rest and peace amidst the storms of life, even when we are in uncomfortable situations. God is never absent but always present, which is reason enough to be grateful and give thanks.
"This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable." - Hannah Whitall Smith
This quote encourages us to live through the lens of seeing God all around us. The ability to recognize our Father at work in everything concerning us creates our capacity to live thankfully each day as we rest in God. May we remember Ephesians 5:20 (NLT), which instructs, "And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We can give thanks and have genuine joy because God is in control.
"Even when life may be difficult, we should thank God for all He does for us which we do not deserve." – Billy Graham
Although life can be hard, God is still good to us. We have been blessed beyond what we deserve and even better than how we sometimes respond. Considering those blessings and magnifying the faithfulness of God helps us make it through hard times. We learn from Psalm 28:7 (ESV), "The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him."
We can never say "thank you" enough and should never stop uttering this sentiment to God. He deserves our thanks and gratitude every season, even when life is most difficult.
"If there was ever a secret for unleashing God's powerful peace in a situation, it's developing a heart of true thanksgiving." - Lysa TerKeurst
There is so much truth that shines through in this quote. It is hard not to have peace when you have a heart filled with thanksgiving. Being thankful causes us to shift our focus from our situation back to God's goodness and faithful love for us. 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NLT) informs us to "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever." Want more peace? Then let's practice more thanksgiving.
"An active faith can give thanks for a promise, though it is not as yet performed, knowing that God's bonds are as good as ready money." – Matthew Henry
One way we can practice gratitude is by giving thanks for the promises God has made to us. This is an expression of our faith and confidence in God. Philippians 4:5 (NIV) encourages us to offer thanks while we wait on God: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." When we choose to thank God in advance for things that have not yet materialized, it projects our trust in His almighty power. We can evidence gratitude in anticipation for what God will do in our lives even before it comes to pass.
"The thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress." - Francis Frangipane
Having a thankful heart causes us to look for the best in everything and everyone we meet. We can then extend mercy to others because we recognize ourselves as recipients of God's enduring mercy provided to us. Psalm 136:1 (NKJV) admonishes us, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Our gratitude for God's patience with us compels us to offer thanks back to Him. We can also give thanks as we grant others mercy as they may be going through their own process of transitions or transformations with hearts of compassion.
"Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it." - A.W. Tozer
No matter who we are, where we are, or what we have, we can each offer gratitude to God. Being grateful causes us to realize how truly rich we are beyond the earthly treasures of this world. The Psalmist declares, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2, ESV). We, too, can boldly declare our souls will bless God and not forget to give thanks for all of the benefits of His blessings.
"We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction." – Harry Ironside
I love this quote because it causes us to remember the high premium and priority of praise and thanksgiving. They both go hand in hand. It's hard to worry when counting all the blessings we can give thanks for. It's also hard to complain when our mouth is filled with praise. Psalm 100:4 (ESV) "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" Living with a spirit of praise and thanksgiving minimizes the encroachment of discontentment and keeps dissatisfaction at bay in our lives.
"Honest assessment of all God has done leaves our hearts overwhelmed with continual thanksgiving." - Patrice Burrell
How can we not tell others of the goodness of Jesus? How can we not testify of the gratitude we have for all God has already done in our lives? When we reflect upon God's endless goodness and mercy, our hearts can't help but overflow with thanksgiving. It only takes a moment to stop and meditate as we assess all the times God has proven to be gracious and faithful to us. I am reminded of Psalm 9:1 (NIV), "I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." The blessings of God are so bountiful in our lives that we can endlessly tell of His wonderful deeds to us. May this be the true essence of our Thanksgiving celebration: Oh God, let our gratitude poured out upon you be the lavish sign of an overwhelmed heart, consumed with true thanksgiving for all you have done and all you are.
Photo credit: ©Álvaro Serrano
Championing women to live authentically and pursue God passionately, Patrice Burrell is called to lead others to the grace of God, rooted in the truth of scripture. She is an author, life coach, and worship leader who loves practicing the presence of God through a lifestyle anchored in spiritual disciplines. As a Bible teacher and preacher, she exhorts women to remember their true identity is defined in Christ, not culture. When not serving at her local church with the small groups and singles' ministries, Patrice enjoys visiting local Orlando attractions, reading books while sitting along the beach, and finding unique ways to explore her writing creativity. You can connect with Patrice on her blog, Warrior Woman Blog, on social media in her Facebook community, Warrior Women, and @patriceburrellministries on Facebook and Instagram. Patrice is excited about her new book release, Living My Best Life: Embracing God’s Gift of Living Full and Single. It is a six-session Bible study designed especially for single women. You can also check out her debut book, Warrior Slay, a devotional book on the power of worship and prayer.
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