I have a friend who keeps a gratitude journal. She writes in it every morning. I’m impressed. She gave me a journal, and I started to do the same. But, I don’t write in it regularly. It takes time to form a habit. It’s not that I’m unthankful, I just don’t naturally think about being thankful the whole time. Although, it’s a good disposition to have.
Some of us, I feel, are better at practicing being thankful than others.
My friend is not a professing Christian. So being thankful is not just a Christian trait. Although, we who are, can learn from those who are not.
I also read that in ancient religions worshippers regularly offered gifts and thanksgiving to the gods, mainly for favors received.
Yet, biblical thanksgiving is different from being thankful for the good we have received. Although often giving thanks to God is tied to good reasons—a good diagnosis, the birth of a long-awaited baby, a job acceptance. And there is nothing wrong with that.
The Bible, however, tells us to be thankful in all circumstances. We are not just to thank God when good happens in our lives. At the same time, all circumstances doesn’t mean we have to be thankful when bad things occur. None of us can do that. God does not intend us to thank him the evil in this world. Instead, the Bible does encourage us to cry out to God in these situations. If that’s you right now, then God hears your cries.
So, what about when life is not good; when our circumstances are like a dirty, dark street, a loud din, or a large gaping hole. What then?
Then, if we are to muster up a word of thanks, or be a tiny bit grateful, it can only be rooted in trust and faith.
Having faith that whatever is happening in our lives, God can work it for good. Trusting, that God will work it for good.
This makes me think about Joseph. Falling out with and being cut off by your siblings is one thing, and all too common. Yet, being hated, hated more, and hated even more, so that plans are made to kill you is another thing entirely. Thank goodness for Reuben, who deterred his brothers from inflicting bodily harm on Joseph. Being sold into slavery was not much better.
And yet, God was with Joseph.
We’re not specifically told that Joseph trusted and had faith in God, but we can tell from his behavior and how he honored God. We see this trust and faith in the names Joseph gave his sons: Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Joseph saw God’s goodness even in the middle of his troubles and his suffering.
And then eventually Joseph knew: You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. Genesis 50:20 NLT
Then we have the example of Jesus.
Jesus has an intimate final meal with his best friends. They didn’t know, but Jesus knew it would be his last. Jesus had eaten, slept, traveled, and worked with this rag tag group of men for three years. Jesus would miss his companions. He had taught and nurtured them. They had argued and often couldn’t understand what he was telling them, but he loved them. And then Jesus knew one of them, Judas, at the table that night, eating with them, would betray him.
Jesus also knew he would soon be in the hands of those who hated him. He would be abused, physically beaten and, worst of all, rejected by his own Father.
And yet, he gave thanks. Matthew 26:26-28 I have to think it was more than a blessing on the food, because the bread and the wine represented the giving of himself.
Jesus gave thanks to God because through everything he was about to suffer, God would use it for good—for you and me. If we can’t be thankful for anything else, we can be thankful for what Jesus has done for us.
So, if you are struggling to thank God with your words, then perhaps you can show your thankfulness in the way you behave and in your trust and faith in your Savior. But, in case you do need some words, use the prayer below.
My God and Father
I thank you for
Jesus my Savior.
I thank you for
hearing my prayers,
and cries for help.
Even when my days are dreadful
I want to be grateful
Today, I am grateful for:
(List 3 things for which you are grateful).
When I don’t find time
Or fail to remember all the good
In my life,
Let my behavior be honoring to you
As evidence of my gratitude to you.
Let my trust and faith in you,
Be my way of saying “thank you.”