Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t feel like giving thanks. When life is hard and we’re having trouble seeing the good through all the bad, it may be tough to put on a happy face and show gratitude. But here we are, on the doorstep of another Thanksgiving, and whatever the condition of your life or the feelings in your heart, it’s good and right for us to give thanks.
Then again, I don’t want to presume that everyone is having a rough year. Certainly, the world has been going through some hardships in recent months, but that doesn’t mean we all feel down. I hope you can see God’s hand of blessing in your life. I hope you feel joyful and grateful as we head into the holiday season. The truth is, we always have abundant reasons to rejoice in God’s goodness and grace, as we do each Sunday morning in worship.
So, for those with downcast hearts, let me offer some words of hope. For those already filled with gratitude, let me encourage you to lift others up. We have many reasons to give thanks, and it will do us all some good.
The first and best reason for thanksgiving is that God is good, always, always good. Throughout the Psalms, we find this invitation: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” You may think of other reasons for gratitude, but we should begin with God’s constant, everlasting goodness. Even when life is hard and the world seems filled with trouble, God is still good. We read of His goodness in scripture. We feel it in worship and prayer. We find it new every morning as the sun rises and our hearts beat to the rhythm of God’s love. God is good.
We should also express gratitude because giving thanks is good for our souls. I imagine modern psychology might confirm what people of faith have known for generations: giving thanks makes us feel good deep in our hearts. David knew this was true as he wrote Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” When we worship and give thanks, we turn our attention away from ourselves, away from the brokenness of this world, away from troubles and worries. We open up our hearts to the Lord, remembering all the “benefits” and blessings He gives, and we feel good.
In a similar way, gratitude encourages people around you. Joy can be infectious. Gratitude can be contagious. In good ways! When you give thanks – to another person or publically to God – you set an example for others to follow. You remind people of what we all learned as children: that it’s good, not just polite, to say, “Thank you!” Our world is starving for goodness, gratitude and grace. We have these gifts stored up in our hearts, and we can share them freely with those who may struggle to overcome the anger and angst of our day.
To take this a step further, giving thanks to God also helps spread the Gospel. When we celebrate Thanksgiving as followers of Jesus, we direct our gratitude upward, to the God who loves us through Jesus Christ. Paul made the object of our gratitude clear: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:3), and when we do, we help draw others to the Savior. We show that, of all the blessings in our lives, the greatest is salvation through faith in Jesus, offered to us freely by God’s grace.
Finally, giving thanks today is a rehearsal for eternity. In scripture, heaven is depicted as a great banquet where we will gather with people of faith to enjoy God’s goodness through Jesus Christ (Isaiah 25:6, Luke 14:15, Revelation 19:9). Heaven will be like a never-ending Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all our favorite dishes, surrounded by those we love, with everyone giving thanks to Jesus forever. There’s no reason for that celebration to wait for heaven. We give thanks today for all God’s goodness.