Making a Habit of Thankfulness
With the Thanksgiving and the holiday upon us, so many of us are beginning to focus on what we’re thankful for and practicing gratitude for the goodness in our lives. It’s a wonderful thing, albeit one that has been reduced to accent pillows adorned with the term, crafty wall-hangings, and the reprise of Thessalonians 5:18 ringing throughout our small group discussions and sermons. If I’m honest, each year I can’t help but think that the obligatory practice of gratitude in celebration of Thanksgiving feels a bit trite-- but only the on the surface.
Beneath the Hobby Lobby-esque appeal surrounding the ideal of being thankful and its predictable presence this time of year lies a profound commandment that when authentically practiced will radically change not only our day-to-day outlook, but our relationship with God.
Especially when being thankful goes against everything we’re feeling.
Losing a job.
Losing a loved one.
Mourning the end of a relationship.
Seemingly insurmountable debt.
All of these scenarios and countless others can leave us feeling anything but thankful. Disappointment and discouraging circumstances have a way of clouding us from seeing God’s goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty, making it so important for us to actively cling to this practice of being thankful every single day throughout the year.
So, in the spirit of thanksgiving, and with the hope of carrying this mindset with us each day of the year, here are a few ways for us to live an unconditional life of thankfulness and gratitude.
Pray using the A.C.T.S model.
It is so easy for us to rush into prayer with God in a way that makes us forget who He is and what He has promised. The focus shifts to our immediate needs and not on the goodness of God, which goes against everything the bible teaches us about prayer!
One way to approach the throne of God to align our heart with His is through the A.C.T.S. model of prayer. The acronym focuses on four key components that ought to serve as a template for our prayer life, derived from the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13: Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
Notice how supplication, or the presentation of our needs to God, is last, after we have worshiped Him, confessed our sins, and practiced a thankful heart. I find it near impossible to leave His presence without feeling uplifted and empowered; not because of what I have asked for, but because of what I have reminded myself of, namely, all that He is and all that He’s done.
Memorize scripture on thankfulness.
It’s no secret that scripture memorization is a way for us to equip our minds with truth so that our weary hearts can cling to it throughout our most discouraging days. It’s also no secret that the Bible has multitude of scriptures that speak to the power and importance of being thankful. A few of my favorites are Psalm 95:1-7, 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, James 1:17-18, and Isaiah 12:2-6.
Keep track of answered prayers.
Ever since I have made a practice of writing down my prayer requests and recording when and how the Lord has answered them, my view of God and my gratitude toward Him has been magnified. He comes through for us every single time. Yes, it may not be the way we expected or in our desired timeline, but I have come to learn that He answers every prayer for our good. Every single one.
When I’m struggling to be thankful in the midst of a difficult circumstance, I love to flip through my old journals and live out David’s words from Psalm 77 when he says “I will remember the deeds of the Lord, yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”
I think in the busyness of life and the unceasing obstacles that we face as pilgrims on the journey to follow Jesus, we can forget to reflect on and enjoy what God has done. We spend so much of our efforts begging God for change, for deliverance, and for answers that when He finally does come through, our eyes are already on the next hill we have to climb. We forget to delight in the Lord and His faithfulness in helping us to overcome the hurdles that life brings us. So slow down. Celebrate with one another the small (and big!) victories that God helps us to see this side of heaven. When we take the time to revel in His goodness and praise Him for who He is, we can face the next difficult circumstance with hope and confidence, knowing that the God that brought us through once will surely bring us through again.