Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:3-5
The history of the American Thanksgiving holiday is interesting, based on the true story of a meal shared with Native Americans who helped the earliest settlers in Plymouth to survive. Thursday’s celebration, however, is the observance of a single event unique to American history. Thanksgiving itself has a far longer history among Christians and Jews. For as long as people have known God, they have given thanks, and gratitude to God tells us as much about ourselves as it does about the goodness of God.
Gratitude puts us in the proper position before God, conveying not only thanks for all He has done and will do, but also acknowledging His sovereignty and our dependence. When we give thanksgiving to God, our minds shift, rearranging our thought and perspective. Research shows that gratitude, the ongoing, daily practice of intentionally identifying things for which one is thankful, alters the physiology of the brain itself. If an individual takes up the practice of naming three to five things per day for which he or she is thankful, depression and anxiety lessen measurably, sleep quality improves, physical wellbeing strengthens, and stress significantly diminishes.
We are creatures wired for gratitude to the God who made us, who is our Shepherd, and in whose lovingkindness and faithfulness we dwell. Even so, what is surprising is how few of us truly live gratefully, though that is not new. When Jesus healed 10 lepers, only one came back to express appreciation. (Luke 17:11-19) America is the wealthiest nation in the world. Our poor have more than the vast majority of the people on the planet. Yet, our culture is polarized, distrustful, angry, and fearful. If one were asked to describe the average American, the first descriptive would not be grateful. How is that possible? How can we have such angst and conflict when we have so very much? We have forgotten God and do not understand our own discontent and restlessness. Because we do not stop to be thankful for all that we have, all that we have can never be enough.
To have enough in life, we must begin with gratitude for what we have already. So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I challenge you to start the habit of making a short daily list – only three to five items – for which you are grateful to God. Three to five things for which you give thanks are enough to change your entire life. I work at cultivating this habit, and I confess that I fail frequently. I wake up and immediately start thinking of all that I need to do. But the things for which I am truly grateful are myriad – when I stop to think. Coffee in the morning, the grace of Jesus Christ, my crazy dog, a whole day of possibilities, laughter, friends who love me even when I complain, my house, God’s faithfulness in spite of my faithlessness, my son’s faith in Jesus Christ, sunshine, a pickup truck, mercy when I fall so far short, colorful leaves in the fall, fresh cherries, the privilege of Christian ministry, my sister living nearby, and the list goes on. I am so incredibly blessed! So much more than I deserve…
Do you offer enough thanksgiving each day? How much time do you spend in worry and stress compared to the amount of time you spend in gratitude? If we invested five to ten minutes each morning giving thanks to God, we would see God at work all around us, and we could be at ease enjoying the life we’ve been given.
The Dominican prior, vicar, and professor of theology, Meister Eckhart (d. 1328) famously said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” I pray you have enough thanksgiving this week and throughout the year to come.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau – © 2019