When I had trouble falling asleep as a child, my parents had a tried-and-true solution. And it was far more effective than counting sheep.
They encouraged me to list the things I was thankful for. And so, I did. With every breath out, I thanked God for another person, place, or thing in my life. I didn’t understand the significance of this practice when I was seven, but now I realize that gratitude isn’t just a way to fall asleep.
It’s a way to live.
Every breath we take is another opportunity to give thanks to the One who breathed life into us. But how can we go beyond just “feeling grateful” and live out Thanksgiving daily? What does gratitude look like in practice?
- Gratitude is loud. Gratitude is meant to be expressed! When Jesus miraculously healed ten men from leprosy, only one came back and threw himself at the feet of Jesus, “praising God in a loud voice” (Luke 17:15). Our thankfulness is not meant to be kept to ourselves, but rather shared joyfully.
- Gratitude is extravagant. In John 12, Mary gave Jesus a lavish gift. She anointed His feet with valuable ointment—so valuable, in fact, that it cost her a year’s worth of savings to purchase. While some of the disciples rebuked her extravagance, Jesus honored her sacrifice. How can we go beyond giving our leftovers and instead give lavishly of our time, skills, and resources?
- Gratitude is remembrance-based. While wandering in the desert, the Israelites were quick to forget how God had delivered them from slavery, parted the Red Sea, and provided for their every need. How quickly we fall into the same trap. Let’s be people who regularly remember what God has done. Let’s continue to tell the stories of when prayers have been answered and mountains have been moved.
- Gratitude is primary. Since gratitude is remembrance-based, we might only think of giving thanks after seeing God’s faithfulness. But Jesus shows us the importance of gratitude first. Before the disciples feasted at the Last Supper, Jesus gave thanks. Before Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, He gave thanks. Before Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, He gave thanks. What would our lives look like if we started each day by giving thanks?
- Gratitude is humble. The gifts we receive from God are not by our own doing. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Our skills, our passions, and our resources are extraordinary treasures from the greatest Gift-Giver of all time. Gratitude is a humble recognition that all we have is a gift.
This week, I pray that you have a wonderful time with friends and family around the Thanksgiving table. My hope is that we might rise beyond the temptation to complain about what’s wrong in our world and find new reasons to be thankful.
And next week—when the holiday break is over and the leftovers are gone—let’s continue to live out a posture of gratitude and daily choose to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).