As is the case with most virtues, you do not magically become thankful. There are disciplines and habits you can cultivate that can reap a harvest of gratefulness in your life.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”1 Chronicles 16:34
Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). When we begin to recognize and embrace this truth, it helps facilitate a greater relationship with Him.
There are disciplines and habits we can develop that help us create hearts that are thankful:
Giving thanks requires practice. We need to regularly give thanks for the good things in our lives. We need thankfulness and not criticism to be our default position. When you see something good in your life, point it out. Thank God for it. We all complain occasionally, but practice responding to your own complaining by finding things to be thankful for. This helps to rewire your brain to be as proficient at recognizing the good in your life as you are at identifying the bad.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Paul tells the Thessalonians to give thanks in all circumstances because it’s God’s will (1 Thess. 5:18). Why? We lack perspective about our lives. We don’t have the clarity to look at any situation and say with any certainty why it’s happening. What we do know is that God is in the middle of it, and He is working to bring good out of it. No matter what we are going through, we can give thanks that God is there. He is redeeming the situation and sustaining us through it. Left to our own devices, we focus on what’s going on around us. We transcend our experience when we’re able to lift our eyes above it and see God’s handiwork in the middle of it. A.W. Tozer says, “Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”
Give thanks when things are going well. It might seem silly to give this advice, but it’s important. Our default position is to expect that things will and should go well for us. When life is running smoothly, it’s easy for us to forget that this is a gift from God. We don’t see the ways he protects and guides us along the way to green pastures and still waters.
Recognize the good that has come from bad experiences. It’s good to spend some time reflecting on the difficulties you’ve already walked through. With enough distance, you can begin to recognize the good that came out of those experiences. Maybe it gave birth to a new blessing or it built your stamina and endurance. Either way, learning to see past trials through eternity’s perspective enables us to be more thankful during times of struggle.
Understand the power of giving thanks. I have seen all sorts of people walk through all sorts of horrendous experiences. It always seems to be the case that those who are the most thankful and have learned to recognize God’s hand have the most fortitude and grit.
Thanksgiving is a superpower. It enables us to see past our experiences and embrace the way that God is moving. Not only are thankful people able to draw strength from gratitude, but they’re also able to empower others with their perspective as well.
Rev. David J. Kussman, 33°
Asst. to the Personal Rep. and Chaplain,
Valley of Orange County