The Importance of Giving Thanks
Oct 6, 2022 · Courtney Jacob
Thanksgiving. What images come to mind when you hear that word? Like me, do you think of a table full of food, the bounty of harvest, or family and friends gathered for a time of celebration and reflection? Both Canada and the United States have national Thanksgiving holidays. In fact, more than a dozen additional countries around the world have holidays dedicated to giving thanks in celebration of harvest or commemorating a historical event. Sure, the date of celebrations, the festivities, and the traditional foods may vary from place to place, but at the heart of each celebration is the human understanding that being thankful is valuable.
The Benefits of Thankfulness
When we are thankful, our focus is on the good in our lives, the things we view as blessings. Thankfulness also encourages us to take notice of the people and things around us that contribute to our blessings, like the weather for harvest or people who create opportunities for us. This thankful perspective benefits us physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. A Harvard Health Publishing article reported: “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
But being thankful also has significant spiritual benefits. For starters, it keeps us spiritually healthy. When we live gratefully, we keep our priorities straight—focusing on God as the one who gives us “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17)—and we don’t accidentally put ourselves in God’s place. We remain focused on God, the one who delivers us, protects us, and provides for us. As Groundwork host Scott Hoezee and retired host Dave Bast remind us in “The Spiritual Challenges of a Comfortable Life,” when life is good, prosperous, and comfortable it’s easy to forget God’s hand in our lives. And when we stop intentionally remembering all the ways he has delivered us, equipped us, and provided for us, it’s easy to forget that everything we have and everything we do flows out of God’s grace in our lives. Gratitude is the antidote to this kind of spiritual lethargy and it also protects us from deadly sins like gluttony and envy. Cultivating a habit of thanksgiving in our lives helps us maintain a rightly ordered perspective about our lives and our relationship with God.
The Spiritual Practice of Gratitude
We have so much for which to be thankful, even in difficult times. First and foremost, we can give thanks to God for our eternal salvation. Beyond that, what else can you give thanks for this year? Maybe the food on your plate, your health, your skills and talents, your community, a particular friend, God’s Word, his comfort, his presence, his faithfulness? What else can you add?
As Christians, thanksgiving has a deeper, more profound meaning. It is not just a holiday, it’s a daily spiritual practice that deepens our faith life and enriches our relationship with God. It is a practice that can help center us and give us strength in seasons of sorrow and pain.
Gratitude flows from a humble, grateful heart, but as humans this attitude doesn’t always come naturally to us. It’s not surprising that we might need to cultivate this spiritual practice by creating intentional habits of study and prayer. These habits provide opportunities to cultivate hearts of gratitude. If you’d like resources to help you nurture a thankful heart, consider digging into these materials from Groundwork and additional programs produced by ReFrame Ministries:
From ReFrame Ministries
- Prayers of Thanksgiving an article from ReFrame Ministries Prayer Ministry
- Being Thankful in the Middle of Not Enough from Family Fire
- Teaching Thankfulness from Kids Corner
- Sharing Thanksgiving Prayers from Kids Corner
For a Thanksgiving holiday
- 3 Audio Bible Studies for Thanksgiving from Groundwork
- 7 Thanksgiving Devotionals from Today Daily Devotional
- Thanksgiving table cards from Family Fire
May you know the rich blessing of living with a grateful heart and experience an acute awareness of God’s grace and presence in your life.