As followers of Jesus, why should we be thankful people? Even the MOST thankful people of all?
It’s Thanksgiving week in America as I write this. Ironic that this annual holiday is sandwiched—and often eclipsed—between marketing campaigns for us to buy, buy, buy. Reminders we don’t have enough yet.
While I’m as likely as anybody to try to snag a good deal, I try to stay focused on the reason we celebrate this holiday—that we should be and can be thankful for so many things.
Thankful every day, not just on Thanksgiving.
Key Bible Verses about Thankfulness
There are two answers to the Why—Why should we be thankful people?
- God commands it! That should settle it for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
- Jesus made a way for us to come out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of light! That alone should make us thankful people every single day, even if everything else is a disaster.
But there’s a third answer too—because it’s so good for us! Thankfulness produces a ton of benefits for us.
We’ll explore them in detail below. First, though, let’s review just a few of the many Bible verses about thankfulness:
1 Chronicles 16:34—”O give thanks to God for He is good. For His lovingkindness endures forever.”
Psalm 7:17—”I will give thanks to God according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of God Most High.”
Psalm 95:2-3—”Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For Jehovah is a great God and a great King above all gods.”
Psalm 100:4—”Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, and bless His name.”
Psalm 106:1—”Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1 repeats it)
1 Corinthians 15:57—”But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18-20—”…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God…”
Colossians 3:15—”And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful.“
Colossians 4:2—”Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving…”
Philippians 4:6—”In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18—”In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.”
Thankfulness Helps Keep Our Focus on Jesus
In my own life experience, the most important reason to keep thankfulness front-and-center is that it keeps my eyes on Jesus instead of whatever it is I’d rather be unthankful about.
Have you ever found that focusing on what’s wrong rarely makes it right? I’ve found that when I go to Jesus with a humble and thankful heart, He’ll either provide a solution, give me the grace to deal with it, or move on, despite it.
Thankfulness to Jesus helps keep our focus on Jesus. It helps us love Him more—what the Bible says needs to be our #1 priority. Loving God.
Thankfulness for other people—even hard people—is a key that can unlock healing, reconciliation, patience, endurance, a different perspective. It leads us to prayer.
Thankful in hard situations is one of the toughest places to stay. But it’s possible with the Holy Spirit’s help. I’ll never forget reading this story from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom:
Corrie and her sister Besty were in a Nazi concentration camp during World War 2. Conditions were unspeakable. Corrie told Betsy she just couldn’t be thankful for the lice that infested their barracks. But Betsy assured her it was possible, so they thanked the Lord even for the lice.
It wasn’t long before the sisters realized the camp guards wouldn’t go near their barracks because of the lice. So Corrie and Betsy were able to freely share Jesus with the other women prisoners, to pray with them and study the Bible with them.
Wow! God can work in any situation. Thankfulness is a key to allowing Him freedom to do that.
Thankfulness Benefits Us in So Many Ways
God created us—He knows what we need to thrive!
Here are some of the benefits found by researchers that thankful, grateful people have:
- Thankful people are happier than unthankful people.
- A habit of thankfulness helps reduce depression, and can even help prevent it.
- People who are habitually thankful experience less anxiety and fear.
- Thankfulness helps build the emotional resilience we need to deal with life’s challenges.
- Not surprisingly, thankful people tend to be less focused on themselves and more focused on others. This others-focus makes them more likely to support the people around them—their family, work mates, friends, faith group and community.
- Thankful people tend to have a more restful inner life.
Those are amazing spiritual, mental and emotional benefits! Here are some of the benefits for our physical body (again, these are researched):
- Thankful people tend to engage in fewer, if any, destructive behaviors like substance abuse, stress eating and not taking care of themselves.
- They’re more likely to eat well and exercise or be active. These two habits are so important for our overall health.
- They tend to experience less inflammation and pain.
- Thankfulness lowers cortisol levels, often called the stress hormone.
- Thankful people tend to fall asleep faster and sleep better overall. This is another vital element for overall good health.
[I found much of the above information in these articles: “How to Foster Gratitude” WebMD.com • “Why Gratitude isn’t Just for Thanksgiving” time.com • “Thanksgiving Science: Why Gratitude is Good for You” livescience.com]
Interestingly, being in nature gives us many of those same benefits. The Lord has filled this earth with so many things to be thankful for.
When you’re outside hiking or biking, paddling or camping—or whatever it is you love to do—thank God for what He’s created.
Grumbling: The Opposite Spirit
One of the most unthankful groups of people in the Bible was the Hebrews who the Lord delivered out of Egyptian slavery. Their story is in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
God did the most astounding miracles for them and around them. And yet, when they had to face the next hard thing, their immediate reaction was to grumble and complain.
Even with all the ways they’d seen God deliver them—with their own eyes—they forgot all that. Here’s just one example, in Numbers 14:2-3:
“All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘We wish that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that we had died in this wilderness! Why does Yahweh…[fill in the blank!]?’ “
Every time I read these stories it convicts me!
It’s SO easy for me to start grumbling as soon as things don’t go my way. I’ve been working (with the Holy Spirit!) on this in me for years. I don’t want to encourage this spirit of grumbling—the opposite of thankfulness—because it’s not from God. It’s from the pit of hell.
We often look at complaining as just weakness. “It’s not really sin, I’m just having a bad day.”
But God takes it very seriously. It’s demonic, no matter how benign it may seem. It takes our eyes off God. It shipwrecks faith. It gives the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).
How to Develop a Thankfulness Habit
There are a ton of ideas out there for how to become a thankful person. For most of us, it means being intentional.
Some people love to journal. If that’s you, make or buy a Gratitude Journal and write something in it every day. Maybe it’ll be during your devotional time with the Lord, maybe before you go to bed.
Don’t forget to be thankful for the basics: You’re breathing. You woke up this morning. I assume people reading this live in First World countries so you probably have a roof over your head and food on your table.
Make a habit of saying “Thank you” with a smile every single time anyone does something for you—and don’t forget your family! If you’re having a bad day, do it anyway. No exceptions.
If you’re married, look for things to be thankful for in your spouse. If you have children, look for things to be thankful for in them. And tell them, either out loud or in a note or card. You can do the same with roommates, co-workers, teachers and classmates.
Most importantly, read through those Bible verses we listed earlier in this post. Memorize them and pray them to God. Thank God every day for something, anything, everything.
One of the easiest ways for me to drag myself out of a grumbling mood is to put on my Worship Mix list on iTunes (these aren’t just Christian songs, but worship songs that focus on the Lord) and play them—loud!
It isn’t long before it’s easy for me to say “Thank You, Jesus!” and really mean it. So often it’s simply a change of perspective. Seeing things from His point of view instead of mine.
How about you? How’s your thankfulness meter today?