I’ve lived most of my life giving shallow thanks.
Sure, I’ve been grateful when big things happened. I’ve thanked God when he came through or saved my neck.
I’ve thanked God for answered prayer and for those things dear to me — salvation, my family, health, provision, freedom to worship.
But for most of my life, I never saw the simple gifts, the small mercies, the personal love notes all around me.
It wasn’t until I lost the love of my life that I found deep gratitude.
In those weeks and months of hard grief, I was fighting for hope and aching to see God’s goodness when the world felt so horrible.
Opening to a fresh page in my journal, I numbered down the left-hand margin: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. That day I thanked God for the obvious things he was doing.
The next morning, I continued my numbered list: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. I forced myself to think back over the day before. I noted God’s provision, how he lifted my head, small joys.
And so began a practice of daily thankfulness and the gift of daily surprises.
Thanksgiving is too big for one day or even one month. That’s why we’re called to live grateful.
The more I recorded things I was thankful for, the more God opened my eyes to things to BE thankful for.
Instead of running out of things for my gratitude list, God showed me countless blessings from a limitless God.
7 Ways to a Life of Thanksliving
1.Gratitude for all God has done. We can thank God for salvation, provision, opportunities and open doors. We can thank him for answered prayer, the beauty of this world, our family and our health. But this isn’t the place to start and stop because there’s so much more.
2. Gratitude for who God is. This helps us look past the gifts to the Giver. We can thank God that he is merciful, loving, gracious, patient, holy, just, sovereign, compassionate, forgiving, faithful. A friend has used A.W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, as a guide to spend a day on each of God’s attributes.
3. Gratitude for all the things that never happened. Thank Goodness he hasn’t given us everything we’ve so desperately asked him for. Only heaven will reveal all God kept from us. He’s hemmed us in, protected us from accidents, provided escape from temptations, directed us past detours and dangers, and kept us from all we deserve.
4. Gratitude for all the things we cannot see. John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” We see the wait while God sees perfect timing. We see the move while God sees the abundance that the move will bring. We see the obvious, while God sees every intentional detail.
5. Gratitude in advance for what God will do. God’s faithfulness means we can thank him for all he promises, even in the unknown. Ten months ago, I found myself thanking him in advance. We’d gotten a Saturday morning call that what we thought was a golf injury was a lemon-sized tumor on Seth’s spine and we’d have to wait till Monday to see the neurosurgeon. Even in that unknowing, we thanked God that he was in control, his timing was perfect, he would guide us, sustain us and provide for us.
6. Gratitude for the blessings reserved in heaven. We tend to give thanks for our here and now but believers have an imperishable, undefiled inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Thank God he’s preparing a place for us. Thank God there won’t be tears, pain, disability, or fear. Thank him that to die will be gain, that we’ll have eternal peace and joy unimaginable, that we’ll dwell with him in love and finally know perfect holiness because of Jesus.
7. Gratitude for the trials. This one may be hard, but if God is for us and if he is only ever good, then we can thank him for trials he allows. Trials ween us from the world and knit us to God. They help us see what matters and what doesn’t. They mature us and shape us to become more like Christ.
Thanksgiving is too big for one day.
Instead, we’re called to a life of thanksliving.
“Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Eph 5:19-20
“Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:18
“I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1