On Being Thankful

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Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11

Because I have so very much for which to be thankful and so very many thoughts on how and why to be thankful, writing about being thankful sometimes leaves me not knowing where to even begin. (For more on what I’m personally thankful for, click here, here, here. , or here. 🙂 )

But I think what I realize about writing about being thankful is that my words should be a simple reminder of what makes the Thanksgiving holiday meaningful in the first place. While an exquisitely composed, sophisticated article about giving thanks would, I’m sure, be helpful, a simple message of the importance of giving thanks seems much more fitting.

What this holiday calls for is simplicity. Bob Russell, a wise and respected Christian minister, recently explained that Thanksgiving is “one of the few holidays that hasn’t been commercialized.” It is a day in which we pause to gather with our closest family and friends to enjoy time together and to give thanks for our blessings. We take a time out. The world stops for a day so that we can remember and appreciate all that we have to be thankful for.

Being thankful does not come easily to us. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday, and perhaps he knew that we needed this day to be official so that it would remind us to make an effort to be thankful. We want to think we are grateful by design, but we aren’t because it isn’t natural for us. So we have all the more reason to choose to work harder at being thankful.

Children must be taught to say “thank you,” but even after learning to speak these two words, they must often be reminded to do so. Finally the words stick and become habit to repeat at appropriate times. And though voicing a “thank you” is certainly appreciated, it is politeness. To be thankful, our hearts must get involved.

For our hearts, our innermost being, to feel thankful, we should recognize two things. First, we should acknowledge what we are thankful for. Little things, big thinks, tiny things, ginormous things, and all the in-between things. Say them out loud, write them down, include them in your prayers. And tell people. Tell the people you love that you’re thankful for them. Tell them why you’re thankful for them. Just tell them. And second, we should accept our blessings with a sense of humbleness, knowing that we are often undeserving of such goodness. This last bit helps us fight entitlement, gratitude’s archnemesis.

Popular culture does not inherently support a spirit of thanksgiving. Instead, our society often encourages us to feel as though we deserve something — to feel entitled. When we begin feeling as though we deserve a, b, or c, it is time to pause and take a step back. Having an entitled attitude does not make us better humans. Entitlement strips us of our ability to empathize, and it hinders us from being compassionate. Entitlement shields our hearts from gratitude. We must fight the urge to let entitlement creep in, and strive to be better than entitlement will ever allow us to be.

We can cultivate a thankful attitude, perspective, and heart, but we must be intentional in doing so. Practicing patience, thoughtfulness, and love will help. It’s much more difficult to think of someone else rather than ourselves, but if we don’t capitalize on opportunities to show our true and deep feelings of gratitude, those moments will pass us by. Let’s model thanksgiving in our lives each day. Let’s be thankful. Acknowledge it, feel it, and bestow it.

Most of all, let us give thanks for Jesus Christ, who gave his life so that we might have life.

 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

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