Every year near the end of November, millions of Americans around the world take time out of their busy lives to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Many simply use it as an excuse to take time off to be with family and eat turkey and stuffing. However, when it comes to the thankfulness element of it, some may struggle to come up with something for which they can be grateful.
>> To hear a more detailed version of this post, or if you simply prefer to listen instead, check out my talk here. I mention a few other things that aren’t in this blog post.
Now, for those of us who aren’t American, Thanksgiving isn’t something we celebrate. It’s just another ordinary day. We don’t even think about stopping to be thankful for the year gone by.
However, as Christians, whether we’re from the United States or other parts of the world, we should make the act of thanksgiving a regular practice in our lives. It doesn’t only have to be when there’s a special day of celebration. Every day can be an opportunity to give thanks to God for who He is or what He has done.
Unfortunately, many of us aren’t thankful by nature. I know that I struggle with it myself. It’s a good habit that each of us need to cultivate.
Why is it important to practise thankfulness and develop that attitude of gratitude?
>> Before you go any further, make sure to download my cheat sheet of 31 thankfulness prompts right here.
4 REASONS FOR PRACTISING THANKFULNESS EACH DAY
1. Being thankful helps us focus on God and shifts our focus off ourselves and our own situation
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul tells us
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we find that difficult to do, If we have experienced a hard year full of disappointments, difficulties or sorrows. are we supposed to be thankful for these things? You might feel resentful towards God and of your current situation. Perhaps you might even question His goodness.
At times like these, it could seem hypocritical to still give thanks to God.
However, Paul isn’t saying that we should be thankful for the circumstances or situations themselves. Rather, we should be thankful in them and can still find ways to express our gratitude to God.
It’s very easy to focus on all the things we don’t have or all the unanswered prayers that we’re still waiting on.
If we make thankfulness a discipline or good habit that we practise, then even in hard times, our natural tendency will be to still see the positive. On the other hand, if we’re prone to complaining and make this into our daily habit, we’re more likely to only ever see the negative.
When we practise thankfulness, we deliberately choose not to focus on ourselves or our circumstances, no matter how dire they may be. Instead, we look to who God is and His character. As a result, our minds and hearts become more aligned with His.
This helps us see beyond our visible circumstances because we know we trust an invisible God.
Expressing thankfulness to God boosts our faith
Connected to the first reason, when we speak out positive affirmations about God through praise and thanksgiving, this has the effect of building our faith.
How does this work exactly?
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
When we complain to God, or we focus on our difficulties, this erodes our own relationship with and trust in Him. It also decreases our faith because we can only see things from our perspective.
By contrast, when we speak out words of thankfulness, this helps us to focus on God’s character and goodness. It also gives us a different perspective of the situation from His point of view. Being thankful brings about a paradigm shift and a renewed mind.
Romans 10:17 says:
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
By speaking words of praise and thanksgiving to God, we are actually making these into speech acts. We assent to the truths of scripture as we vocalise them and then hear them expressed through our own voice. It helps us internalise scripture, and as a result, our own faith increases.
3. Being thankful acknowledges that we are dependent on God for everything
When we don’t practise thankfulness, we can start to believe that we are responsible for our own success or failure and everything that we enjoy. After a while, we believe we are the ones in control of making things happen.
However, on repeated occasions, the Bible tells us the opposite.
In Joshua 24:13, the LORD says:
“So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”
Psalm 127:1 also talks about how our efforts apart from God are futile. It says:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” (NIV)
When we are not thankful, we’re not stopping to give God the glory. In one sense, we’re putting ourselves in the position of creator.
When we’re thankful, we recognise God’s goodness and how dependent we are on him for everything.
4. Being thankful helps us focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t have.
When we live in comfort or luxury, we can start to become entitled. Consequently, when things don’t go our way, we can develop an attitude of ungratefulness.
Normally it’s never a good thing to compare yourself to others. We can easily begin to either become envious of those who seem to enjoy greater success, or we can start to look down on others and become filled with pride.
However, sometimes if we look at others less fortunate than us, it can be quite eye opening.
We can begin to count all the ways in which God has actually blessed us. Our lives may not be perfect, and we may have experienced difficulty. Bu we realise there are many things we may also take for granted for which we can be thankful.
By becoming poor in spirit, we can relate to those less fortunate and realise that it’s only because of God’s sustaining work in our lives that we are where we are. We can realise that it’s only because of the grace of God that we’re not in the same position.
I’ve talked about why we should practise gratitude, but how can we actually put this into practice?
How can we be more thankful to God?
It can be difficult to get into the good habit of being thankful. Some of us may not be used to being thankful by nature. If we’re focused on what we haven’t received or how our lives aren’t how we’d like them to be, then we may struggle to find even one or two things to thank God for when we come to Him.
I know I fall into this category myself. I need something to follow along to help me get started and to jump-start my thankfulness.
That’s why I created a thankfulness prompter cheat sheet for this very reason.
If you’re not confident speaking, you might need cue cards, a script or some kind of prompter to help you so that you don’t get stuck for what to say. In the same way, having a thankfulness prompter can prompt you for ideas on how you can be more thankful to God.
This cheat sheet has 31 different thankfulness prompts.
That’s one for every day of the month. However, you don’t have to use only one a day. You can use as many or as few as you want each day.
>> You can download the sheet below and print it off as many times as you want.
You can use a notebook or journal to write down your answers to each category. The idea is that you fill it in with your thoughts. It won’t be a once-off exercise, and the content you write down will change from day to day, month to month or year to year.
So it’s not only valid for 31 days of a month. Since what you write down will change over the course of time, you can use this as many times as you like to ensure that you practise thankfulness.
How the thankfulness cheat sheet works
Here’s an excerpt of the cheat sheet. You can use something like Bible Gateway to do a search and find different qualities of God you want to focus on. It’s by no means necessary to list every quality, because it will overwhelm you and you’ll lose focus.
You simply want to concentrate on two or three qualities that you can pick out. Note these down and then thank God for them. From this, it makes it easier to thank God for these qualities and pray these scriptures out loud. As I do so, I am aligning my own thoughts with God’s thoughts.
There are many more examples on the sheet to prompt you. 31 different examples in fact, for each day of the month. They range from topics about God and what He has done for us, to how He is working in our lives, or to different prayers He has answered or is yet to answer.
Download it for yourself to become more thankful, not only this Thanksgiving but all year round.
We have a lot we can be thankful for if we really think about it. However, sometimes we need help remembering and kicking our brains into gear.
That’s why I’ve created this thankfulness cheat sheet to help you with various prompts. If you’re overwhelmed with difficulties and can’t think of anything to be thankful for, then this will help you get started.
>> Download the cheat sheet below by entering your name and email address:
When you download it, you’ll also be asked if you want to subscribe to this blog as well where you can receive the latest updates. If you do wish to keep in touch, please check the consent box.
Finally, are you grateful to God by nature or do you have trouble coming up with things and putting thankfulness into practice? If so, why is that?
Let me know your thoughts by leaving them in the comments section below. Also, please share if you found this article useful.
Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.