My mom taught me the importance and graciousness of a thank you note. As a young girl and then a young woman, I was required to write a heartfelt note of appreciation and get it in the mail quickly any time I received a gift or a kind deed from someone outside our immediate family. I have tried to pass that standard on to my own children as well, and from what I can tell, they are fairly consistent expressing their thanks to those who have blessed them in some way.
But at Thanksgiving we do more than send notes of appreciation to those who have endowed us with acts of kindness or gifts of love; we pause to thank our Creator and Provider for all He does for us. While it is best to practice an attitude of gratefulness throughout the year, daily, it also serves us well to focus on our thankfulness on this national holiday.
Why is thankfulness expressed so crucial? What happens when we pause, ponder the gifts we have received, acknowledge the giver of those gifts, and verbalize our gratitude? The physical, verbal act of giving thanks does any number of important things for us spiritually.
When we express gratitude:
- We gain perspective. We stop focusing on what we don’t have or what we “need” and we see with greater perspective all that we have already received.
- We dwell in the presence of God. Psalm 95:2 says, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving…” That’s not just a good idea; it’s a command. When we literally pause to express our thanks to God, we draw closer and closer into His presence. And that’s the best place to be.
- We worry less. Thanksgiving forces us to have a more positive attitude, a brighter outlook.
- We grow in faith. As we “count our many blesses, name them one by one,” we “remember what the Lord has done” and our faith grows proportionately. We realize the same God who has blessed us tremendously in the past will continue to do so in the future.
- We become more humble. You can’t truly and sincerely give thanks to another and continue to claim the credit for yourself, can you? When we thank God for our jobs, our financial resources, our talents, our productivity, our successes, we stop wrongfully taking credit for them and acknowledge that indeed “all good and perfect gifts come from above.”
- We invite God to do more in our lives. God refuses to share His glory. So when we sincerely give Him all the glory for everything that is good and right in our lives, He is much more prone to bless us with encores. He delights in our praises, and when we applaud His character, His works, and His ways, it’s as though we set the stage for more of those things to show up in our lives.
- We are cheered. Giving thanks can seem tedious at the time. At first it’s time consuming, humbling, and even laborious. But once we begin to let loose with praise, our spirits lift, our joy is increased, and our hearts are gladdened. Psalm 92:4 says, “for Thou, O Lord, hast made me glad by what Thou hast done, I will sing for joy at the works of Thy hands.” Thanksgiving is the most direct path to joy.
- We are inspired to bless others. As we pause to recognize all that has been done for us, we are more compelled to do good unto others out of a position of true love and concern. We are not motivated by the desire for payback or appreciation, but by our own gratitude.
- We loosen our grip on that which has been generously placed in our hands. We realize these possessions, relationships, experiences, and intangibles have been entrusted to us as gifts of love; they are not ours because we have earned them or paid for them. Instead they are loans of love from a gracious Benefactor. Thus we hold them more loosely–sharing them with others when appropriate, letting them go when needed, and loving them with a healthy appreciation instead of a manipulative or greedy or idolatrous stranglehold.