A thanksgiving exercise for you

We are only days away from Thanksgiving, and as we prepare for the big day, some are already thinking about what they are thankful for, so they can be ready to speak it out when asked at work, or with friends and family.

As you list those things and people that you are thankful for, I’d like you to consider, who are you thankful to for these things?

Is it Lady Luck? Your lucky stars? The universe? Or, is it God?

LET’S TALK ABOUT THANK YOU

This phrase, ‘thank you’, is part of having good manners. It expresses gratitude and appreciation for someone or something. It is expected in our daily lives, so much so that it is one of the first lessons that we teach our children.

We don’t want them to grow up to be unappreciative, selfish and self-absorbed, ungrateful, and poor in manners – so we drill in them when and how to say ‘thank you’.

It is ingrained in all of us, no matter where we come from, or where we live, that it is both right and proper, to say ‘thank you’.

DIFFERENT WAYS TO SAY THANK YOU

As with anything, there is a good way to express gratitude, and there is a not-so-good way. We have a not-so-good way example in Luke 8:11 & 12. Jesus was contrasting pride and humility as He taught His disciples. He said,

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:11-12 NASB)

This could possible be called a ‘passive-aggressive’ prayer of thanks. This religious leader was making a comparison between himself and others, and thinking himself to be better than them, he prayed from a position of supposed-superiority. Jesus’ response to this was this:

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b NASB).

What I get from this is that the substance of our ‘thank you’ comes from the state of our hearts, how we see ourselves and others.

I’ve found that one of the reasons I might not regularly, genuinely express gratitude to God is that my heart might be full of envy that comes from comparing myself to others.

Sometimes, when I look at what someone else has that I don’t have, my heart becomes envious without any effort on my part. Then, instead of gratitude bursting from me for the things God has graciously given me, I get angry because there are things I think He has withheld from me.

Is that true for you as well? Do you spend time considering the ways in which other people have been blessed, when you aren’t blessed in the ways they are?

WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT SAYING ‘THANK YOU’?

In the Bible you can find many references in both the Old and the New Testament to giving thanks to God. There are many times when we see our Lord Jesus giving thanks. In fact, every time we take communion, we are reminded that Jesus ‘gave thanks’. As the Son of God, He knew the importance of saying ‘Thank You’. This is clearly illustrated in the story of the healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19:

While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19 NASB).

Jesus understood the value of both saying “thank you” when it’s appropriate, and hearing “thank you” when it’s deserved. From this story we can tell that He also noticed when people didn’t say it.

Another reason I find I might not express gratitude to God the way I should is because I’m too busy complaining about how He hasn’t answered my prayers the ways in which I thought, and expected, that He would.

When I am laser-focused on all that I think is not right in my life, it leaves very little room for me to see the multiple blessings that God has already given me. Is it the same for you too?

GRATITUDE EXERCISE

A few years ago I happened on an exercise that, whenever I do it now, can change my complaining to gratitude.

One morning as I was praying, I felt that instead of asking God for anything at that time, I was just going to thank Him for the ways in which He had blessed us. What I thought was going to last a few minutes, went on and on, until I was surprised how much time had passed.

Some of you are probably thinking that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to your life, and that you would probably be done very quickly with an exercise like this. I assure you that when you try this on your own, your list will be longer than you think.

IT IS GOD’S WILL THAT WE SAY THANK YOU FOR THE THINGS HE HAS DONE FOR US

As Christians, one of our most frequently asked questions is, “How do I know the will of God for my life?”. Here you have part of the answer, specifically stated in the Bible as being His will for you:

  • (1 Thessalonians 5:18) says: in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So now that we know that God expects us to thank Him, would you take a few minutes, and practice just saying “Thank You” to God for the things as they come to your mind. At some point in there, you will feel a lift in your spirit, as this active expression of gratitude will take on a flow of its own.

For this you will need to close your eyes, and block out everything around you. You can start anywhere. You may say the words silently, or you may speak out loud, whichever you prefer.

Begin by saying, “Thank You, Lord for *insert whatever it is you want to start out with*. Consider the thing or person you’re grateful for, and allow yourself to experience the gratitude for them. Immediately, something else will come to your mind that you’re grateful to God for. Thank Him for it. And again, allow the gratitude to be felt in your heart.

What we are doing here is to choose to bring back the memory of something we are thankful to God for, and we thank Him now, after the fact, from a truly grateful heart.

This is between you and God. The Holy Spirit will guide you through this prayer. You may find yourself laughing through it, and at times you might find yourself crying. What will happen with this exercise, when you try it now for the first time, and later, when hopefully it becomes a habitual practice, is that you will experience envy less and complain less. Your gratitude meter will expand.

Maybe you can get started by thanking God for the fact that you have a roof over your head. Envision why you are thankful to Him for that, and then thank Him for food, protection, your health. Those are my suggestions for you to start with; then see where the Holy Spirit will take you.

Father, please forgive us of the envy and ingratitude that we have allowed to take up space in our hearts. We repent for not being fully grateful to You even though we pray and ask You for things all the time, and even though You have often anticipated our needs and met them before we even asked.

We thank You that You are a good, good, Father to us. Just like we can ask You to increase our faith, we ask You today to increase our gratitude. May saying “thank You” to You become as much a part of our lives as breathing is.

Thank You for Your patience towards all of us, and for Your lovingkindness that bathes us everyday.

In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Copyright © Debbie Mendoza November 2021

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