Thanksgiving used to be my least favorite holiday. I was never a fan of the food and there were no costumes or presents or egg-hiding rabbits.That only redeeming quality of Thanksgiving was the fact that is was a reminder that Christmas was a mere month away. Luckily, I have gained a better appreciation for the holiday and what it stands for (the giving thanks part NOT the taking over land that belongs to others part) as I have gotten older.
This year in particular, I was asked the question of what giving thanks really means? Is thanksgiving an act or a posture? OR is there some combination of both that we must achieve in order to really understand what gratitude and thankfulness are?
I’ve always considered myself a thankful person. Kind of like I have always considered myself an active person. But if I think about, there have been months in my life when I have gone without working out or hiking. So during those times, am I still an active person? I would argue no. That then begs the question that if I go days, weeks, or maybe months without saying thank you and acting thankful, am I really a thankful person? Again, I would argue no.
This concept really seems to play out when I reflect on my prayer life and my conversations with God. I try my best at the beginning of every prayer to thank God for who He is and what He is doing in my life. Of course, the conversation then quickly changes course and becomes me listing off my requests and burdens to Him. I usually then end each prayer with a “I love you and thank you for who you are” comment followed by “Amen”.
That’s decently thankful right? Maybe, maybe not. If I really think about my “thankfulness” I realize that I am never listing specifics. I never talk about the things I am thankful for and go straight for the burdens and requests. I never thank Him for the good things that are going on in my job and career and only ask Him to change the bad things. I never thank Him for my relationships and how they continue to mold and shape me for the better. I only ask him to fill the void of my lack of a romantic one.
Furthermore, I rarely (maybe never) thank God for what He has yet to do in my life. I don’t thank Him for relationships that He is building and strengthening that have yet to come, for promises that He has yet to fulfill, and for opportunities that He has yet to bring about in my life.
So what? What does saying thank you really do? Well besides the obvious of being pleasing to God, acts of thankfulness shift our perspective. Instead of dwelling on shortcomings of situations, we can understand that there are great things going on in our life. Please don’t get this confused with leading a life of complacency and plain old settling for less than you deserve. They are two different things!
Also, thanking God for things that have yet to transpire speaks life into these things and opens our eyes to possibilities that we might have overlooked because we were not focused and looking for them. If we are thanking God for friendships He is making, we will probably be more inclined to hang out and talk with those people we meet because we are looking to build successful relationships.
So give thanks! For God is good! And He is building and creating great things for your life!