As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, take this challenge to exercise yourself in gratitude.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Psychologists say gratitude is the least felt of all human emotions, even though it has some of the most positive effects on the mind and body.
I know this to be true in my own life. Expressing thanks never came easy for me, but pouting sure did. The only thing I was proficient in was throwing a fit. When Jesus saved me, I was the king of pity-parties, constantly sending out invites to anyone who cared to join and assist me in wallowing in my misery. I wore people out so much with my belly-aching and sob-stories that I actually had a person in high school once tell me, “AJ, no one wants to go to your pity-parties.” (What a resounding rebuke from a high-schooler, huh?!)
More than a gleeful response to getting what we want. More than having optimistic tendencies. Thanksgiving is a discipline and a practice.
Let’s define practice: the repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
Much like physical fitness or playing guitar, thanksgiving is a practice. As we engage in repeated exercise of thanksgiving (or giving-of-our-thanks), it becomes a skill in our life. Consistent practice of anything makes us proficient in it. You and I can become proficient in thanksgiving; we can become highly-skilled “thanks-givers”!
That’s why the Apostle Paul tells you to give thanks at all times, regardless of your circumstances, or the season you find yourself in.
In fact, Paul says that this steady ability to offer thanks to God is His will for your life. Do you want to be in God’s will? Become skillful at giving thanks.
But how can we be thankful when nothing is going right?
It’s easy to feel that way. But I think we all know the answer… there’s always something you can be thankful for. Even if our current circumstances are not good, God still is.
Reverse the Stinking Thinking
Why is it so hard for us to see the bright side? Because the human default setting—our flesh—is tuned into the frequency of selfishness. And selfishness and thanksgiving don’t flow together. Rather, selfishness breeds fear, entitlement, discontentment, jealousy, and self-pity.
As Christians, thank God we’ve been given a new nature. (2 For 5:17) The old has passed and the new has come—we have been born again and a new nature resides deep on the inside of us. Once we received Jesus, the core of our being was filled with the Spirit of love and peace and joy. We simply need to let the joy and gladness out. And we do that as we feed upon the Word of God and confront old strongholds of “stinking thinking” and the blah attitudes in our minds (1 Corinthians 10:4-5, Romans 12:2).
Energized by the word of God, thanksgiving can become a habit and practice in our everyday life. Let’s start today.
Here’s the challenge:
Sit down and list out 45 things you’re thankful for. Get on your Notes app and write them out. Or even go old-school with pen and paper. Give 45 different “thanks” to God. Ten, twenty, or thirty might come easy to you and then you hit a wall… But dig down, think about who He is and all He has done, and exercise that “gratitude muscle” inside you to list out all 45.