I have often felt burdened by that word.
It's a tag-on. A formality. Something children are taught to say when they're learning their manners. Something you say when you don't know how else to respond. Sometimes it's used at the end of a letter. Sometimes it's used sarcastically. Then there's the holiday version of it. Everyone is always so 'thankful' on that one day of the year.
Most of the time it is really just said so that people will think you're polite and kind and a morally good person.
'Thanks' is probably among one of the first words you were taught. You probably had to say 'thank you' to the kind stranger who held the door open for you. And you probably had to say 'thank you' when your mom handed you a cookie, or when your older sibling let you play with their toy.
If you think back to the first prayer that you ever learned (or even just heard) it also probably had some form of 'thanks' in it. "Thanks" is most likely one of the first things you ever said to Jesus. "Thank you Jesus for our food." "Thank you for dying on the cross." "Thank you for mommy and daddy and my house and my dog and my sister..."
Thankfulness comes so naturally for children (once they learn the word). They can think of so many things that they're thankful for. When I was younger, I would pretty much just list off everything that came to mind when somebody asked what I was thankful for. From the lamp beside my bed to my friend who lived in Sweden.
As I became older, I started to avoid the 'thanks' part of my prayers. It might have been because there were too many things that I was 'supposed' to be thankful for and it would just have taken too long to say them all. Or it could have been because it was just easier to ask for things and talk about all the problems I had. I would lie in bed saying my end-of-a-long-day prayer silently in my head, and my mind would drift. I would start off with "thank you for this day" and then I would quickly end up telling God how I had a ton of homework that I didn't get done, how I was stressed all day because I barely had time to eat, how my parents didn't understand me. Then I would talk to him about my friend drama and the person in class who had frustrated me. I would ask him to fix it all. And then - oh yeah! I forgot to apologize for yelling at my sister. So I would quickly ask for forgiveness for that. Then I would throw in an afterthought - "Thank you for loving me" or "Thank you for my family" - just so I didn't feel as guilty. And maybe I would end with telling Him how great He is and how I loved Him too.
So many demands. So little thanks.
When it came down to it, 'thank you' had lost its meaning for me (as did talking to God altogether, but that's a story for another time!).
A couple weeks ago I was challenged to think of 1000 things that I am thankful for.
When I heard that for the first time, one part of me was thinking "that's going to be so easy" and another part of me was thinking "I don't have time to write all of that down!" No part of me even considered that it actually might be an important thing to do.
Thanks still might have no meaning to you, and you might be reading these words thinking "she's just giving me another reminder to be thankful..." But I'm not going to give another reminder. Seriously just think about this. Think about every time you have ever been angry, upset, worried, bored, jealous, or impatient. In those moments did thankfulness have a home?
For me personally, my answer would be no.
When our hearts are ungrateful, our thoughts our pointless and our minds become darkened (Romans 1:20-22). God becomes angry when we don't thank him. Without thanks there is no joy. Without thanks we don't have the capacity, ability, or strength to accept God's grace.
Because joy and grace are within thanksgiving.
The story of Jesus giving thanks for a loaf of bread is what helped me understand all of this.
Luke 22:19 says that Jesus took some bread and gave thanks. The Greek translation of 'gave thanks' is eucharisteo. In a previous post I talked about the Greek word for grace, which is charis. This is also the root word of eucharisteo. To take this even further, the root of charis is chara. Chara means joy.
So why does this matter?
At the heart of thanksgiving, there are grace and joy. Happiness is found in thanksgiving. God's gift of grace is found in thanksgiving.
Don't we all want that gift? Don't we all want to be happy?
See, there is power in thanksgiving. Not the holiday, but the action.
It changes absolutely everything.
Thanksgiving reminds us that our lives are gifts. That this world is not our own. God provides us with everything so that we can go to Him with thanks and receive the joy and grace that He wants to offer us.
I never thought that focusing on what I am thankful for would be a life-changing challenge.
When we focus on being thankful instead of giving anxiety the power to overwhelm us, peace reigns.
When we focus on being thankful instead of allowing anger to grow in our hearts, we find forgiveness.
When we focus on being thankful instead of justifying jealousy, satisfaction resides in our souls.
Thanksgiving brings everything to your life.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17
|Photo Credit: Katie Cottrell|
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, 10 000 reasons for my heart to find
My First 10 Thanks
1. Divine grace that frees me from the strive for perfection.
2. A God who loves me despite my failures.
3. A family who will never give up on me.
4. Friends who unconditionally accept me.
5. A home & country where I am safe & free to love my Saviour.
6. The opportunity & ability to pursue an education & career.
7. Never-ending provision. In every way. All of my needs are met.
8. The sound of beautifully orchestrated melodies, giggling babies, & singing robins in the spring.
9. The warmth of sunshine, the beauty of snowflakes, and the sound of rain at night.
10. Soft fuzzy blankets & earl-grey tea.
[990 more to go] :)