In today’s culture, where feelings are the governing authority, gratitude is considered crucial. And it should be. But without someone to express gratitude to, it becomes just an empty feeling that goes no further than yourself.
Gratitude journals and social media posts are all the rage these days. It is such a warm and fuzzy feeling to recognize those people and things in your life that you are thankful for, especially throughout the month of November. We equate these cozy feelings with pumpkin spice, crisp autumn mornings, and chunky sweaters.
Gratefulness definitely is important to your own psyche; without it we might become entitled and self-absorbed. But thankfulness and gratitude were not intended to be for our own benefit. They were meant to bring awareness to the One who created it all, and who is in all, and who is for all. They are a form of worship, and if our worship isn’t directed at the One who is worthy, who is it directed to?
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; 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 steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100
Why is Gratitude so Important?
Gratitude as worship sets your mind in the right place. It puts the rightful focus on the giver of all good things.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
It humbles you by acknowledging that you are the receiver of the blessings that God has bestowed upon you. Every single person in your life, every single possession you own, and every single piece of beauty around you, has been placed there by God.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15
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, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29
Once we have a mind of humility, looking up to the creator of all things with a heart filled with thankfulness, we can begin to experience true worship of the Father. Healthy worship bonds us to Him in the way that we were created to be – the masterpiece showing appreciation to the artist.
Gratitude is important to God because He cares for you intimately. He knows the dangers that come with placing true gratitude where it doesn’t belong. We can become prideful and arrogant in what we have, thinking that we earned it ourselves; or entitled, believing that we deserve a good life with good things just because of who we are.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
What is the Spirit of Gratitude?
God has a lot to say about gratitude, and there are a lot of Bible verses about thankfulness. If you’d like, you can use them as comforting platitudes to make you feel good. But if you pay attention, in every way they are specifically pointing to a purpose behind that heart of gratitude.
In ALL Circumstances
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
This doesn’t mean being thankful for the easy, beautiful, or fun things. This means being thankful for the difficult and ugly as well. My husband has been bed-ridden for the past month and a half as he heals from a surgery. Nothing about this season has been easy, beautiful, or fun. But through it, we’ve grown closer as a family, and we’ve all learned a thing or two about compassion, empathy and having a servant’s heart. For this growth that the Lord has brought, I can be thankful.
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Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Ephesians 5:19-20
One of my favorite hymns, It Is Well, tells the songwriter’s story of the loss of his daughters to a raging sea storm shortly after the loss of his son to illness. He wrote the song as he passed over the location of the girls’ death just days after the terrible accident.
When peace like a river attendeth my wayHoratio Spafford (1876)
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well with my soul
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
When we pray, we do so with an expectation that God is going to work. So we watch, waiting for evidence of His mighty hand. And we can be thankful that we have a God that is approachable. He may not answer in the way we are hoping, but we can be confident that He will answer, and for that we can worship Him with words of gratitude.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
He is Good
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1
God is good, all the time. Even when we don’t understand God’s plan, even when it doesn’t make sense, we can trust that it is good. When things don’t go the way we’d hope, or when terrible things happen, God may not intervene, but He has promised to use it for His glory. And His glory is always good. For that, we can show thankfulness.
How to Show Thankfulness to God
There are many ways to practice gratitude. These are a few that are my favorite:
There are so many gratitude journal options out today. If interested, my own printable Prayer and Study Journals have pages included specific to gratitude. Or, if interested in incorporating gratitude into your daily study, Cultivate What Matters has incorporated a spot for gratitude. The prayer journal that I use from Not Consumed also sets aside an opportunity for thankfulness each day.
Whatever journal you go with, please be sure that your focus is not on how you feel, but on who you are grateful to. Do not allow your feelings to derail you from what is important.
Month of Thankfulness
I know many who are good at this throughout the month of November. While we should be thankful throughout the whole year, November (at least in our country) has been set apart as one for expressing gratitude.
A great way to practice this is to write a journal post every day documenting your reason for gratefulness. This can be a fantastic practice in being thankful for the little things, as it can become quite difficult to think of something different for each day. If done in social media, or in a 5-year journal, the previous years’ entries will populate to remind you of all that God has done.
Sing Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
Many worship songs have been written giving thanks to God for everything. The Bible has much to say about expressing gratitude through song.
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30
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
A couple of my favorites are:
Use His Gifts
The best way to show gratitude to those who’ve given you something special, is by using the gifts they’ve given. If God has blessed you in any way, appreciate those blessings. Take advantage of them by using them to the best of your ability. If he’s given you compassion, use that compassion to call on those who are hurting. If it is wisdom, then share what He has imparted on you with others. Do you live in a house? Offer it up to His work. Use all He has given you with Him in mind.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
And finally, the easiest way to show thankfulness is to simply say “thank you”. God loves it when we talk to Him. When you see a beautiful sunset, say “thank you”. If a friend brings you a meal, say “thank you”. Are you driving to work to provide for your family and to put a roof over their head? Say “thank you”.
It’s as uncomplicated as that.
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Cut the Feeling and Make Gratitude an Action
An action can give you a good feeling, but a feeling without action is hollow and empty. Let’s all resolve to not just stop at “feeling grateful” for those things in our lives. There is not a single blessing that did not derive from His hand. Let’s lift our voices in thanksgiving and praise to the One who created all.
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:11-12