The sun setting in a forest during fall. The leaves have all turned red, the trees are half bare, and there is a bad of red leaves glowing in the sunlight on the ground.

The Good Practice of Thanksgiving

Harvest Partner — October 7, 2022

I often smile when I read articles by researchers and other members of the scientific community that confirm the great health benefit of practicing thanksgiving. I’m not smiling in derision but because my God already told me that, and I give thanks!

A recent article published by Harvard Health Publishing stated that giving thanks makes us happier, improves our mental health, our physical health, and our relationships. Here’s a quote from the article: “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.”

The practice of thanksgiving is mentioned frequently in Scripture. We are taught that gratitude and thanksgiving are important ingredients that influence how we think, interact with people and with God.

Given the stressful world conditions, and sometimes our own personal difficult situations, giving thanks may not always be our first response. Of course, we are not thankful for pain and suffering. However, we learn from Paul the apostle, who endured incredible hardship, that believers can always see something for which to be thankful.

Paul, who had a history of suffering and hardship wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in prison. He instructed believers to include this crucial ingredient in prayer: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

To the Philippians he wrote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

We live in perilous times (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5) with wars and rumors of wars, disappointments, injustices, pain, and suffering. Yet, as followers of Christ we always have reasons to give thanks, regardless of circumstances. If we are attentive to the voice of the Spirit of God, we find that he helps us inwardly and glimmers of hope appear giving rise to faith, and we are able to deal with the next minute, hour or day.

I offer a few prompters for thanksgiving today, not just for the Thanksgiving holiday but for any day. I pray these will be helpful and even uplifting for you.

We can always give thanks for…

  • God, who loves us unconditionally; whose mercies never cease; whose grace always abounds; whose faithfulness is great.
  • God’s Word—flawless, right and true, source of wisdom and guidance, living and enduring, full of hope for today and eternity.
  • God’s presence with us in all circumstances to help, guide, comfort, strengthen, heal and restore.
  • The gift of prayer that enables us to draw near to our Lord and lay our personal concerns and the needs of the world at his feet.
  • God’s protection on our land and the grace of living in a country where there are no military assaults.

Thanksgiving is much more than the holiday weekend we celebrate every October. It’s a way of life for the follower of Christ. It’s a practice that renews our faith and hope is subtle but sure ways. And it is part of our witness in a world who does know the One from whom all good things come.

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