Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s always been a favorite holiday of mine. Family, friends, pie, and pure gratitude for all God has done over the past year. But this year might be a bit different. Right? Depending on where you live, there may be strict COVID restrictions. Depending on what losses you’ve experienced recently, you might not be feeling very thankful.
How do we cultivate a heart of gratitude in the face of loss and uncertainty?
The Psalmist, David, wrote, “Seven times a day I praise you…Great peace have those who love your law and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:164-165). I’ve been meditating on his words all week. What’s striking about this passage is that David lived a very uncertain life. Anointed to be King as a teenager, he waited a long time for the fulfillment of that promise. At least 15 years or more. During that time Saul hunted him and tried to kill him many times. David lived with continual uncertainty even after he became King because there was always an enemy threatening Israel. Yet, David writes, seven times a day He praised and thanked God. I believe David’s passionate praise was the key to his resiliency. I also happen to believe that it is the key to our resiliency.
When we choose to give thanks to God – even when we don’t feel like shouting, “Hallelujah” – God is pleased. How do we do this in light of all the uncertainty surrounding us?
Set an alarm on your phone. Develop regular rhythms of praise and giving thanks. A little discipline will help. Is it hypocritical to praise God for who He is when everything in your life is falling apart? No. It’s called a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15-16). Use the alarm on your phone or ask Siri or Alexa to remind you. Seven times a day, stop. Pause and give thanks to God for either an attribute of His or a blessing in your life. By reminding your brain of the good and holy character of God, you train your brain towards peace. Create a list of the attributes of God and keep them handy. Stop whatever you’re working on 7 times a day for a few seconds and praise God for His character. I bet if you did this for a month, you would begin to experience more joy and peace than you ever thought possible. Try it. I dare you!
Thank and praise Him for simple gifts. Last night I had the privilege of rocking my sweet grandson to sleep. The room was crowded with family and lots of activity with the older grandkids, but in the quiet sanctuary of my soul, I whispered, “Thank you, Lord, for these precious moments of rocking sweet Asher to sleep.” By giving thanks in that moment for the simplicity of rocking a baby, life became a bit more beautiful.
You can thank Him for simple things: “Lord, I thank You for the beauty of the blue sky. I thank You for the cup of hot coffee. I thank you for the beauty of the snow on the mountain peaks out my window. I thank you for the joy of clean water to drink.” Make it a habit to thank God for everything! This is what Paul meant in I Thessalonians 5:18 when he wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” No matter how dark the circumstances of our lives. No matter what we are grieving, we can cultivate the habit of giving God thanks for every gift, whether small or great.
Find the blessing of each day. Think of it as a treasure hunt. Every single day of your life holds a treasure chest of blessings. It’s a gift to be alive and to be able to know God. So teach yourself to pause, look for, and give thanks for the blessings of each day.
Every evening that we’re together at dinner, my husband, Steve, and I reflect back on the day and write down in a journal three blessings of the day. It has been such a joy for us to do this as a couple for the past several years. Even in seasons of great pain, finding the blessings of each day has helped us rediscover just how wonderful life can be.
Friend, this will likely be a different Thanksgiving for many of us. You might be grieving losses that are deep and dark. Find the courage to stop and praise God 7 times a day, give Him thanks for even the simple joys of life and learn to find the blessings of each day. I guarantee you’ll live a more joy-filled and peaceful life.