Giving Thanks in a Thankless Culture
If you are like me, keeping the “thanks” in Thanksgiving can be a challenge. In a culture where commercials tell us to want more and technology enables us to have it immediately, I must regularly remind myself to be thankful for what I already have.
Even on Thanksgiving Day it is easy to get so distracted with the delicious food and Black Friday sales that the true meaning of the holiday slides down the priority list, to be thankful for who and what we have.
For Christians, this thankfulness challenge applies not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. Paul encourages us to:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
In other words, Thanksgiving is more than a day to observe, it is a lifestyle to cultivate. We are called to gratitude and to overcome the temptation to want more…and want it NOW.
The benefits of a thankful heart are well documented. Studies have shown that an attitude of gratitude has numerous health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, alleviating depression and anxiety, and improving sleep quality.
Thankfulness not only can lead to better physical health, but also to better spiritual health. This includes improving our witness and testimony to others.
Here are a few ways that thankfulness can bolster your witness for Christ.
Thankfulness attracts others
Researchers say that the average person complains 30 times a day. Our complaints can weigh others down. People have enough to worry about, why would they add your cares and concerns? If held a certain way, magnets repel each other, but if one is turned, they attract. Try turning from an attitude that focuses on what is lacking and going wrong to one of gratitude for what you have and watch the positive effect it has on you and those around you.
Thankfulness sets you apart
Paul commands us to… Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world Philippians 2:14-15. Just as the stars contrast with the night sky, so Christians should contrast with our culture. Thankfulness provides us with this opportunity. I’m not talking about phony thankfulness which is only skin deep and whose motive is the approval of others. I’m talking about true thankfulness cultivated in your prayer closet before God. Authentic gratitude starts early in the morning. After you wake, the cares and concerns of the day can bombard you and drag you and your attitude down. Try waking each day with a list of 5 things you are thankful to God for (start keeping them in a journal), then keep the list going throughout the day. You will still face the same challenges, but with a different attitude and mindset that will be noticed by others.
Thankfulness sharpens your focus
Life is full of distractions. When our focus is on our problems, unfulfilled desires, and things we think we are owed, we miss out on what really matters, including opportunities God provides for us to share the hope that is within us. A spirit of gratitude will help you deal with the distractions of worry and discontentment and help keep the main things in mind, serving God, serving people, and sharing the gospel.
Thankfulness is a wonderful gift for others
People are busy and rushed at this time of year. Sincere thankfulness can be a light in the darkness to others and points to the grace of God in our lives. It’s free to give but could mean a lot to the recipient. Encountering a grateful person in an ungrateful culture is refreshing, like finding an oasis in a desert. Commit to be that person and watch the Lord open new doors for you to share about the primary One for whom you are thankful, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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