I love Thanksgiving. I cherish our traditions: the kids and I will run the Turkey Trot 5K (I will waddle, they will run). We will play flag football (and I will seek not to injure myself), & rustle up a feast (I’m deep frying a bird this year, Karla will do all the hard work) to share with friends and family. We may even see how the Ravens do later in the day.
Most importantly, we will set aside time to say out loud how blessed and thankful we are – and attribute all this to God.
I hope you don’t miss how significant this holiday can be for you. Giving thanks provides healing for your soul. I believe some people today are sick in their soul. I would prescribe gratitude being expressed to God as treatment. It sure enlivens me.
Gratitude helps your soul for three reasons.
First, giving thanks causes you to think deeply about the way God’s grace has showered itself on you, leaked unnoticed into your days, saturating the events of your life in ways previously unnoted. Count your blessings!
I heard a woman say “Instead of thanking God for my two strong legs that are able to run and jump and climb, I whined about my “thunder thighs” and “thick ankles.” Thanksgiving wakes us up to recognize blessings everywhere, shaking us from the slumber of ingratitude which wants to keep us in a dreamlike trance of self-referential pity, consumed by our problems, lulled deeper into a stupor by the drone of our own whiny complaints.
My friend Tsiago from Brasil was with us in Kenya last summer. Last night he recounted the scene of girls from the slums singing praise and giving thanks to God – a scene we will never forget from our visit. Whenever he is tempted to feel sad or self pitying, he takes out that video and it reminds him of the blessings of God and the power of attitude.
It’s time to wake up and count your blessings! Name them one by one! Of course you have reasons to be sad and angry. Are you really going to let that define you? Think of your blessings – and let it shock, surprise and shame you as you suddenly apprehend how much you have to be grateful for.
The second reason thanksgiving heals your soul is because it invites you to move your gratitude from recognition to expression. Not just expression as in verbalization, like “I’m thankful I’m so awesome at video games.” But expression as in giving an offering of gratitude to the Lord Jesus, giver of all good gifts.
It’s a terrible thing to feel gratitude and not know Whom to thank. So thank God. I believe offering gratitude to the Lord is what makes you a beautiful human being. Any person can be a beautiful person in the moment they humbly offer gratitude to God for His grace.
Feeling a vague notion of thankfulness and actually expressing thanksgiving are very different things. Only those who go on to thanksgiving expression become beautiful.
If you are hurting extra much this year, muster extra gratitude. Don’t worry if you don’t feel very joyful in doing so at first. Let the thanksgiving of your mouth stir up thankfulness in your heart.
Steps to being a beautiful person:
1) Identify blessings.
2) Allow yourself to feel gratitude.
3) Express it.
It will make you more beautiful and heal your soul.
The third reason gratitude helps your soul is because when you express gratitude, you become a much more likable person. When you give thanks to God it blesses the people around you. It changes you and encourages them.
Nobody can long stand being around an ungrateful soul, because that sickness is contagious. The problem is, ungrateful people usually end up griping that people don’t want to be around them – but the reason people don’t want to be around them is because they are so tirelessly ungrateful in the way they look at life. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken with thanksgiving.
So let me give you a hint. Don’t wait for your heart to feel thankful. Utter thanks anyway. Say it out loud, offer it to God and you will find that it blesses everyone around you as well – partly because you will stop being such a drag to be around. I’m not saying your life is perfect. I’m saying if you can’t find something to be thankful for, you’re doing it wrong.
I like what Harry Ironside said: “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”
Think about this: It is IMPOSSIBLE for gratitude and griping to occupy your heart at the same moment. Give thanks more and you will like your life more. Thanksgiving breeds contentedness and a sense of appreciation to God for his grace and blessings. And it can do that without actually changing ANY of your circumstances.
And besides, the Bible enjoins us to give thanks in all circumstances. Because this is what we were made for. If you’re not giving thanks, you’re doing it wrong.
So whatever you do for Thanksgiving this year – football or family – do the most important thing. Count your blessings, and thank God for his grace.
And don’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to get started.