Discovering True Thankfulness

by Sarah Shaul, originally published November 2015

Thanksgiving Day is nearly upon us. On this day, we purposefully reflect on God’s goodness and abundance in our lives. We gather with our families and friends to celebrate His blessings, happily enjoying a delicious meal and cheerful gathering.

Or not.

In reality, we might be encouraged to give thanks, but thankfulness is often the last thing on our minds. Instead, we dread the obligatory visit with difficult family members. Or maybe we avoid grief as we long for a lost loved one. Perhaps it’s the meal planning, house cleaning, events, celebrations, and to-do list that take our time and attention. Under the stress and strain, a quick, obligatory “Give Thanks!” or “Happy Thanksgiving!” is all we can manage. The awesomeness of God’s divine blessing and abundance is forgotten as appreciation gives way to anxiety, gratefulness to green bean casserole, and blessings to black Friday sales.

To put thanks back in Thanksgiving, we must remember the importance of a thankful spirit. Thankfulness turns us away from the unsatisfying busyness of life and toward the sustaining power of Christ’s salvation, truth, and love. In the presence of His power, our priorities are reordered, our attention is refocused, and our thinking is changed. We no longer have to dread the uncomfortable family dinner. Instead, we give thanks for the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and grace. We don’t need to stress over a Pinterest-perfect tablescape. Instead, we give thanks that we are not defined by our accomplishments but by the gracious Creator.

It could be easy to view thankfulness as another item on the to-do list and acknowledge it with begrudging obligation instead of authentic appreciation. To avoid this, we must decide if thankfulness is important enough to make time for it (like all things in life, if it is important enough, we’ll make time). Making time may mean reprioritizing: turning off the TV, delaying an email or text message, or staying up a few extra minutes. In this intentional time, let us focus and reflect on God’s blessings in our lives, such as work, friendship, home, food, health, or family. How has God revealed Himself in these daily elements? How has He used these things to deepen our relationship with Him? What has He given that we could never create ourselves? May we come away from this intentional time of thankfulness changed by Christ’s generous blessing and remembering its importance in this season and all seasons of life.