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What does it really mean to be thankful? We talk about it a lot during this season, and we even make lists of the things we are thankful for. We know the Bible repeatedly commands us to be thankful. But why? And do we really consider what we are thankful for on a deeper level? On a level that changes our attitudes and thoughts and motives? Do we give thanks with a grateful heart?

I have to admit, so many times for me the answer is no. Not the kind of heart changing gratefulness that opens my eyes to the blessings of God. The kind that leads me to fall on my knees in worship of Him. To gaze upon His beauty—the one thing David desired.

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4, emphasis added

Do I truly recognize and internalize His incredible goodness, and grace, and mercy? Maybe it is all the negativity around us in this world right now. So much anger and yelling, so little listening. The constant scenes of violence and hate.

And yet the Word has not changed. God has not changed. He is with us.

3 Reasons to be Grateful

1. Gratitude is His will.

So often we act as if God’s will for us is something mysterious. But so much of what He desires for us is written clearly in His Word. If you are seeking God’s will for your life, start with His revealed will, then act in obedience—even if you don’t feel like it. The practice of thanksgiving changes our hearts, minds, and attitudes.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, emphasis added.

2. Gratitude helps guard our hearts.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4–7

I love how this is explained in the notes of the NKJV Study Bible, 

Will guard: Paul’s choice of a military term implies that the mind is in a battle zone and needs to be ‘protected by a military guard.’ Since the purpose of such a guard in wartime situation is either to prevent a hostile invasion or to keep the inhabitant of a besieged city from escaping, the peace of God operates in the same way: to protect the mind from external corrupting influences and to keep the mind focused on God’s truth.

Prayer and thanksgiving. The two go hand-in-hand, connected in a way that changes us. Giving thanks as we pray protects us from the lies of Satan and the subtle distractions of life. We experience the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds during the times we are most vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

3. Gratitude takes the focus off of us.

When asked what the great commandment in the Law was, Jesus answered

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37b–40

Thanksgiving takes our eyes off of ourselves. And when we aren’t spending so much time thinking about ourselves we have more room to love others well. To notice their needs and pray for them. I love how Paul started so many of his prayers for the churches with “I thank God in all my remembrance of you…”

He goes on not only to say thanks to God for what he has seen in their lives, but he continues to pray for their deepest needs. And ultimately thanksgiving is one way we love God with our hearts, souls, and minds. Thanksgiving puts the focus on Him and leads us to trust Him more fully.

A Deep Gratitude

Are we thankful on a deeper level than just the things we own, the relationships we have? Of course we should thank Him for family and friends, food and shelter! He has provided for our needs, and so many of our wants too. But this Thanksgiving season, I want to give you a challenge:

Let’s put our focus on spiritual realities as well—on the things that compel us to bow before Him, that make us bend our knees and offer praise to God. 

I want to invite you to download Grateful: 8 Day Scripture Writing & Prayer Challenge. In it you will find

  • A devotional reading for each day (8 total)
  • Verse(s) for Scripture writing based on the acronym GRATEFUL
  • A place for you to draw or write a verse or phrase
  • Reflection questions with journaling space
  • A page for your prayer of thanksgiving

Join me as we bow our hearts and minds. Let’s go before him giving thanks with a grateful heart.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.