“Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him”—Colossians 3:16c-17(CEB).
Thanksgiving will look different this year for most of us. Large family gatherings are discouraged because of the pandemic. Others have lost loved ones to this virus, leaving an empty seat at the table.
Family traditions, such as going around the Thanksgiving table, and expressing gratitude for something or someone, may be more difficult. We might be asking, “Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?”
At the end of that tunnel is light, and His name is Jesus Christ. He has not left us nor forsaken us. He never will. Let’s put that promise on our gratitude list.
Making a Gratitude List
One thing I’ve learned is the more I choose gratitude, the easier it is to be thankful—no matter the situation. I once heard someone say, “We have to exercise our ‘gratitude’ muscles.”
So, how does that work? How do you exercise a muscle you can’t really see? When we’re working out our physical body, we often look at our image in a mirror to assess our progress. Or we climb on the scales to see if we’ve lost any pounds.
Pastor Chuck Swindoll once said, “Gratitude is a decision of the will, and if a decision of the will, the choice resides squarely with us. Deciding to be thankful is no easy task. It takes work.” Just like getting in shape requires exercise, so does building our muscles of thankfulness.
Building Muscles of Thankfulness
How do we build muscles of thankfulness? We prepare, just as an athlete prepares before a sporting event.
During trying times, it’s sometimes difficult to be thankful. But if we’re rooted in God’s Word, we know we’re never alone. Joshua 1:9 tells us, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.”
Recently, I asked my social media friends to post those things and people for which they were grateful. Family, friends, health, indoor plumbing, and a good job were just a few of the things listed. Not one person replied they were grateful for the trials in their lives. I can understand that. However, expressing thanks during trials builds our gratitude muscles and our stamina to weather any storm.
Weathering the Storms
How often do we become complacent about our daily routines? We take for granted our loved ones will always be with us. Waking each morning, we prepare for work, not expecting we might lose our job before the day is over.
Theologian and writer G. K. Chesterton once said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
It’s the difficulties we experience in life that produce the deep, abiding joy that comes from knowing God is working in us. During my 67 years, I’ve faced many hardships and challenges. But I know, without a doubt, they have led me to a closer walk with Jesus and an overwhelming freedom of living in appreciation of His amazing grace.
A Freeing Expression
The word gratitude comes from the same word as freedom (gratis = free). “Gratitude,” according to writer and apologist Ravi Zacharias, “is the freeing expression of a free heart toward one who freely gave.”
Jesus is the One who freely gave so that we might have life everlasting. Our offering of thanksgiving is more than just being grateful for goods we’ve received. Its acknowledging God for Who He is, for His character, His goodness, His love, His power, regardless of what favors we’ve received.
Thankfulness overflows when we let the peace of Christ rule our hearts. In the stormiest of times, we can praise God. Praise Him for His love. Praise God for His sovereignty. Praise God for His promises, especially to be near when we call on Him.