Getting After Grateful

When the year hasn’t gone as expected, but there’s still so much to be grateful for

The holidays are quickly approaching. And while everyone is excited to get their trees up, gifts wrapped, and their houses lit up while listening to tunes of classic Christmas melodies, let’s not forget about Thanksgiving! The holiday where so many of us begin thinking about gratitude and the things we have to be grateful for in our lives.

Let’s take a moment and sit there, in gratitude. Though it may be tougher this year to think of things to be thankful for compared to past years, it’s pretty safe to say that we still have so much to be thankful for.

First off, let’s remember that gratitude isn’t just a good habit to practice for the sake of a holiday. It’s so much more than that. Gratitude can have the ability to affect our overall health. It can affect our mental health, our relationships, as well as our work life. It has the power to influence so many different areas of our lives that we probably had no idea it could touch. It can even play a part in dealing with anxiety and grief. It really is fascinating when you look at the power of gratitude. But all of that is way too much to cover in this one post, so if you’re interested in reading a full study on it, you can click here to check it out!

But gratitude isn’t just a science thing. We can find countless passages in scripture that talk about this idea of gratitude and giving thanks.

  • Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5:18)
  • Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
  • Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (Hebrews 12:28)
  • Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20)
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
  • I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. (Psalm 7:17)
  • Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)
  • Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, (Psalm 103:2)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)
  • To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)
  • But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57)

And we could go on and on as there are so many more passages referring to to giving thanks.

But gratitude is biblical. It’s not just a thing we think about once a year. Well, it shouldn’t be.

Gratitude is key. In a few of the passages listed above, we see that gratitude isn’t just something we do because everything in life is going great and everything is working out the way we planned. Sure, if that’s how your life was going, then you’d certainly have plenty to be grateful for. But the first passage on that list from 1 Thessalonians says “Give thanks in ALL circumstances”. Why? Because that is “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.

It can be tough to remain grateful when life feels like it’s just falling apart around you, but where you put your focus really does matter. For example, if someone told you not to think about a hippo in a tutu, chances are that’s the first place your mind would go. It wouldn’t even require much effort. No matter how hard you’d tell yourself to not think about a hippo in a tutu, that’s where your brain is going to go. And it’ll keep going there until you give yourself something else to think about altogether.

What you put your focus on will only magnify that thing. But you are always presented with options. This year has been tough financially for many of us. So, you can choose to focus on your lack of finances and get mad that you can’t go out and buy whatever you want whenever you want, or you can focus on the fact that God has blessed you with enough money to pay rent and have food for the week. Where you put your focus matters. It can either bring up anger and bitterness, or it can fill you with gratitude and joy.

That’s not to say that you’re not allowed to have a worry or feel upset about something, but an attitude of gratitude can make all the difference from being consumed by frustration to stepping up in growth from a grueling season.

We all know how difficult this year has been, but what has God been teaching you? How has God shown up in your life this past year? And if you’re struggling to think of something, try zooming out to look at the bigger picture. Consider James 1:2-3 where we are told to find joy in facing trials as it produces perseverance and strengthens our faith. Or even Romans 8:28 that reminds us that He is working all things together for the good of those who love him.

God is teaching each one of us something in this season, whether we’ve already spotted it or are still in the process of figuring it out. The things we have felt and struggled with over this past year is valid. God doesn’t expect us to swallow our feelings and pretend that everything is fine when it’s clearly not. We’re allowed to acknowledge our feelings and frustrations, but don’t let your focus sit on those things and allow them to consume you. Take them to God, and then give thanks that you still have your community, family, a home, your car, a job, money for groceries, your health, or even that his grace is abundant, love unconditional, and that his mercies are new every morning. Focus on those things because what you focus on matters.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

Through the countless challenges we have faced this year, God remains faithful and will continue doing a work in us if we allow it. It won’t make the hurdles of this year disappear, but it will allow you to see how God can flip those “trials” and use them as a tool to help you grow and develop a deeper intimacy with Him.

Sure, we have plenty to be angry and bitter about that we could wallow in if we chose to do so. But, oh, the peace that comes when you allow yourself to let go and let yourself be filled with gratitude for how good God has been, there’s no feeling like it. Let the joy that comes from thanksgiving become your new 2020 anthem song to march you boldly into what God has for you in 2021.