The American celebration of Thanksgiving is most often a holiday focused on food and black Friday sales, serving as little more than a bridge between Halloween and consumer-driven Christmas. However, giving thanks is more than a trite tradition, it’s a powerful concept rooted in Biblical commands that contains the power to transform lives.
A Biblical Command to Give Thanks
The Bible is filled with verses that emphasize the importance of gratitude. From 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which states, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” to Colossians 3:15 (NIV): “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”, we see more than a simple suggestion to embrace thankfulness.
Repeatedly in scripture God actually commands gratitude in “all circumstances”. The God who created mankind knows the power of thankfulness. Even secular scientists have found that the act of gratitude actually changes brain chemistry, resulting in less anxiety and depression. God certainly knows this, and therefore in His kindness has laid out the very recipe to ward off bitterness and anxious thoughts: thankfulness.
Additionally, thankfulness is given to us as a tool on how to approach God: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4) and “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). If we desire to enter His courts, and be heard in prayer, He has given us a simple directive to help: gratitude.
Which of us, as earthly parents, don’t have our hearts moved when our children express gratitude? How much more is God worthy of our thankfulness? Thankfulness is a powerhouse concept, giving us the ability to change our own brain chemistry while also allowing us to move the heart of God.
The Psalms – Thankfulness and Praise in Trial
While the whole Bible is composed of commands and examples of gratitude, if we want a true case study on human thankfulness we need look no further than the Psalms. In times of distress, the psalmists often turned to gratitude and praise as a means of connecting with God. Psalm 34:1 declares, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” We see Psalm after Psalm where the psalmist first pours out his distress, heartache, and sorrow, only to then seemingly disconnect from his pain and express confidence in the Lord and thankfulness for His presence, love, and protection.
This apparent change of heart is less a reflection of the psalmist’s actual mood change, and more so a powerful example of using gratitude as a weapon against overwhelming grief, sorrow, and despair. This demonstrates the transformative nature of thankfulness, serving as a tool to uplift the spirit and find strength during life’s challenges.
Gratitude in Action
Robert, a disciple-making pastor, experienced the power of thankfulness firsthand in an unexpected encounter. While attending a community meeting at a coffee shop, he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to engage with a man named Steve. As they connected, Steve shared the discrimination he faced and challenges with his business, leading Robert to introduce a transformative process rooted in gratitude.
The process involved reflecting on what they were thankful for, identifying struggles, and meditating on Psalm 23. This simple yet profound approach resulted in the formation of a group that grew from Toney to include his friends and co-workers, and even expanded to a mental health day for his employees. The impact was profound, with individuals experiencing real encounters with God and the emergence of a sense of community, prayer, and revival at a bar in Kentucky, all from a simple exercise in gratitude.
Thankfulness is an undeniably powerful tool for personal and communal transformation. Through gratitude, individuals not only find strength in adversity but also build connections that foster support and encouragement. As we reflect on the biblical command to be thankful, may we joyfully obey, allowing God to bring revival in unexpected places.