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Thoughts on Giving Thanks

Updated: May 4, 2021

Thoughts on Giving Thanks

Erika Castiglione

One of my friends has been teaching her preschoolers about thankfulness by daily writing something they are thankful for on paper feathers and attaching them to a paper turkey. I‘ve enjoyed watching their turkey feathers grow as I remember similar activities from when my children were younger. I have “thankful trees” somewhere (or at least photos of thankful trees) with red, yellow, and orange leaves, chronicling thanks for family members, fruit snacks, and Lightning McQueen.

Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, asks the question, “If you aren’t noticeably grateful for what you have right now, why do you think you’d be more joyful when you have more?” Good question. Perhaps it’s because we often look more to the gifts than the giver for our source of joy. Maybe it’s because we often view Thanksgiving as transactional or as a form of spiritual etiquette instead of an integral part of a life that pleases Christ.

Through thank offerings and festivals, gratefulness was woven into the lives of the Hebrew people, and every New Testament writer admonishes their readers to “give thanks.” The Psalms of thanksgiving model what it means to marvel at the goodness of God, His character in all its many facets, His artistry in creation, His victory over enemies, His promises, His law, and His many gifts. In his letters, Paul thanks God for revealing the mystery of the gospel, for the privilege of being Christ’s servant, and that those he had been called to shepherd were walking in the truth. Jesus, our ultimate example, gives thanks for God’s provision even when it appears inadequate to those around, for the shocking way God chose to reveal His mysteries to the humble, and for the bread and the wine, His own body and blood.

Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly, speaks of the role of beauty and surprise in a believer’s life. He says that to become a Christian is “to be awakened to beauty,” and that we should continually be startled by Christ’s welcoming heart, by His goodness, and by the gospel, not just at conversion, but our whole lives. This unexpected gift -- mercy where justice is expected -- is so shocking and so wonderful that the only proper response is thanksgiving and praise.

Lately, I have been on a hunt for beauty, and I have been amazed by the generous abundance God has scattered about in this broken world, even in the year 2020. I have felt it in the obvious places, the turning and falling of leaves, pink and golden sunsets, the laughter of my loved ones, and the photographs of precious newborns filling my newsfeed; but I’ve also felt it in the persistent faith of those I know who are in the midst of suffering from chronic pain or unmet longings, in the way God beckons us to trust in the unknown, and in fractured friendships striving for understanding and unity.

Isn’t it so generous of God that the very things he commands us to do are the things that will bring us the most health and joy? Gratitude isn’t a denial of sadness, but an act of faith in a deeper truth and a bigger story. Gratitude is a reminder that all good gifts come from our father and, like any good father, He wants us to enjoy them. Gratitude is a safeguard against the soul deadening act of grumbling (which is far different from lament). Gratitude is a weapon against the lies of the enemy. Gratitude is a balm for weary souls. These are just a few of the reasons it is “good to give thanks to the Lord,” so I pray our “roots would grow down deep into Christ, our lives would be built on him, and we would overflow with thankfulness.”

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