“Did you say please and thank you?” I asked my children, just as my mother had asked me. I was brought up to express thanks for every kindness, each gift quickly followed by an appropriate thank-you note. In turn, I raised my children to do the same.
All of my diligent training created good behavior in my children, but did it teach them true gratitude? I tried to call their attention to our many blessings and privileges, but did it create in them a truly thankful heart?
When I first learned about God, and how He deserves thanks for all of the gifts that He lavishes on us, it felt natural to obey the biblical admonition to give thanks. But those expressions of thanks were an obligation, a product of good parenting and polite company, not always an expression of the heart.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Sometimes giving thanks comes tangled up with guilt. We forget the simple miracle of clean water, a full pantry and more than one pair of shoes. Our easy abundance shames us rather than softens us.
Giving thanks is simple, really. The humble heart seeks. Notices. Acknowledges. Not from a place of guilt, but from a transformed mind.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.Psalm 107:1
I didn’t quite understand it then, how thanksgiving is so much more than recounting blessings. How it is the very lifeblood of faith.
Sometimes, giving thanks is an act of courage. It is a stake driven into the ground of our suffering. It is a declaration that darkness will not win the day; that it will not win in us.
Giving thanks is also a powerful act of defiance in a culture steeped in selfishness. Gratitude forces us to face the darkness and disarm the demons of discontentment and complaint.
Thankfulness is often the guardrail that protects our spirit from tumbling into the ravine of negativity. Forming a habit of giving thanks protects us from countless petty passions and anxieties.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.Psalm 42:11
The Bible describes praise as a sacrifice, in a culture where sacrifice meant the slaughter of an animal. Sometimes giving our praise requires a death as well – a death to self-will, wrenched out of our very soul in surrender to the power of a love that gave itself to rescue us from hurtling headlong into the prideful abyss.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.Hebrews 13:15
We just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday in America. We bowed our heads over tables laden with traditional dishes. But how did we approach our heart’s table? More to the point, how will we approach it today, the Monday after, when the feast has been consumed and life has resumed its ordinary rhythms?
Let us pursue a thankful heart with the courage, defiance and sacrifice that true faith requires. This is no simple Sunday School lesson on proper Christian behavior. It is a life-giving act. It is a profound expression of worship.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, the scriptures tell us. On special days, yes. But most truly, most meaningfully, on the ordinary Mondays after.
For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet…Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?Rebecca Harding Davis