Giving thanks to God seems like an easy enough task. So why is it so hard to remember gratitude and thanksgiving in the small things of life? Our hearts tend to spill over with ungratefulness more often than spilling over with gratitude. Yet our creator wants our grateful hearts and we should be offering them in surrender.
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The view from my first home was beautiful. We overlooked a rolling field that almost constantly has a slight breeze. There was a huge oak tree that framed the view with its towering branches. A small swing gave evidence to the breeze and created a picturesque setting. Plum trees danced with blossoms during the early Spring. Wildflowers grew from the ditches in the summer. Leaves cascaded throughout the Autumn months, and winter left its mark by intricate frost and snow. It was beautiful.
By contrast, looking into my driveway there was the most pathetic shed ever. Its appearance was shaggy, horrid, and I was disgusted by its rot. The shed was pieced together with various mismatched materials, it leaned to one side, the plywood bloated with age, the roofed leaked, and due to the top blowing off wild life frequently meandered in and out. Inside was even worse. Used as storage, the elements of nature had destroyed everything. The worst part? It wasn't our shed. It was our neighbors and it sat only about 2 feet from our property line with the door facing our property.
I was constantly torn between being thankful for our incredible view or embarrassed by the eye sore that greeted our visitors. I caught myself explaining this dilemma to our then 6-month old son. My conversation went something like this:
“Do you see that shed? That’s not our shed. It’s our neighbors. Doesn’t it look horrid? Maybe someday it will become weak enough to push over. Maybe someday it will spontaneously explode, and I finally will have a piece of property that doesn’t humiliate your momma.”
How do you Express Gratitude to God?
As I have reflected on that conversation, which was ripe with sarcasm, disgust, and disdain I’ve been saddened by the lack of gratitude to God I was teaching our son. We are called to give thanks to God in all circumstances. The little things and the big things all add up to teachable moments of gratitude. There was no giving thanks to God for our blessings in that conversation, there was just a complaining mother.
A spirit of thanksgiving doesn’t start when a child understands what thankfulness means. Teaching thankfulness starts in the womb as the child responds and feels what is communicated through the mothers neurohormones. Some of the articles and studies with supporting evidence get a little bit odd, so I won’t link any of them, but go ahead and do a google search on how mother’s emotions effect their unborn babies. It’s absolutely incredible!
You know the old saying, “Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Its sadly true. As the heart of the home, mothers typically set the emotional tone of the house. Do we have bad days? Um, yeah. Can I get an amen on that one? We have bad days. We have sinful days. Just like anybody we have days in which we completely fail at being the heart and healers of our home.
Giving Thanks to God
However, the Bible doesn’t tell us to only be grateful on the good days.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.I Chronicles 16:34 NIV
We are thankful because the Lord is good! I can choose thanksgiving not because of my circumstances, attitude, or my own ‘goodness,’ but because of the graciousness, love, and forgiveness of a perfect and holy God. A God who forgives through the working and power of Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Every thankful byproduct of our heart should stem from that a perfect and holy God set us free from a life of sin and condemnation. What freedom that gives me!
Stories of Gratitude in the Bible
Have you ever noticed that in the Old Testament thanksgiving is closely tied to praising God? Giving thanks to God seems to be a natural reaction for the characters of the Bible. Most Old Testament passages praise God with thanksgiving, not with specific deeds or reasons to be thankful. I also notice that thanksgiving is closely tied to worship and adoration. Rob Kaufil in the book Worship Matters has challenge me on this.
“Magnifying God’s greatness begins with the proclamation of objective, biblical truths about God, but it ends with the expression of the deep and holy affections toward God.”Rob Kaufil "Worship Matters"
Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say:
"I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds."Psalm 9:1
"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 NIV
"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things."Psalm 107:1, 8-9
We especially see lots of giving thanks to God examples in the Psalms. If you want to delve into more Psalms of Gratitude and Thanksgiving, check out this entire article on the subject!
How do you Thank God for Everything?
I don’t know about you, but I often only feel grateful when I have ‘reasons’ to feel grateful. Giving thanks to God doesn't come as naturally to me as I would like.
Now practically speaking, we teach children to be thankful through ‘reasons’. We teach them polite manners. To say please and thank you. To be thankful for their toys, food, bed, gifts, and a myriad of other items and circumstances. These are good things to be teaching. They are necessary. However, they are still things of this world. They don’t teach a heart change. They don’t teach a spirit of thanksgiving. Reasons to be thankful will stem from teaching our children the goodness of God.
So may I propose a bit of a different way to cultivate thanksgiving? I have often seen legalistic little children that know what to be grateful for, but not why to be grateful.
Have you ever noticed that we celebrate the holiday Thanksgiving with lists of reasons to be thankful and the next day ask our children for a Christmas list of wants? What a way to breed discontentment! Thanksgiving should lead us to contentment! Instead of creating lists of reasons to be thankful with our children, why don’t we show them thanksgiving by being living examples of how the understanding of the goodness of God produces thanksgiving back to the very God we serve.
It would look something like this.
“Baaboo, do you see that spectacular view that God created in our front yard? Isn’t he good? I’m so thankful for his goodness in that view.”
“Baaboo, do you see that shed over there? It reminds me of how sin corrupts over time. I’m so grateful that God has set us free from sin.”
“BaaBoo, do you see this food that God has created? Wow isn’t it amazing that he created such healing food for us to eat.”
Grateful to God for Everything
Do you see that by being living examples of the type of thanksgiving we wish to produce, that we teach our children why to be thankful? Giving thanks to God is a daily practice that should be infiltrating our homes. Ultimately I’m not praying for my children to be able to list all the materialistic things they are grateful for. Instead I pray they will see the goodness of God and that alone will cause them to give thanks for the abundance he has given.
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