Category  |  Gratefulness & Thankfulness

In Abundance or Affliction

Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts encourages readers to search their lives daily for what the Lord has done for them. In it, she daily notes God’s abundant generosity to her in gifts both large and small, ranging from the simple beauty of iridescent bubbles in the dish sink to the incomparable salvation of sinners like herself (and the rest of us!). Ann contends that gratitude is the key to seeing God in even the most troubling of life’s moments.

Job is famous for a life of such “troubling” moments. Indeed, his losses were deep and many. Just moments after losing all his livestock, he learns of the simultaneous death of all his ten children. Job’s profound grief was evidenced in his response: he “tore his robe and shaved his head” (1:20) His words in that painful hour make me think Job knew the practice of gratitude, for he acknowledges that the Lord had given him everything he’d lost (v. 21) How else could he worship in the midst of such incapacitating grief?

The practice of daily gratitude cannot erase the magnitude of pain we feel in seasons of loss. Job questioned and grappled through his grief as the rest of the book describes. But recognizing God’s goodness to us—in even the smallest of ways—can prepare us to kneel in worship before our all-powerful God in the darkest hours of our earthly lives.

Mosaic of Beauty

Sitting in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel, I was overwhelmed with the beautiful display of 67 mosaics containing the words of Luke 1:46–55 in as many languages. Traditionally known as the Magnificat from the Latin “to magnify,” these verses are Mary’s joyous response to the announcement that she will be the mother of the Messiah.

Each plaque contains Mary’s words, including: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior. . . . For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (vv. 46–49). The biblical hymn etched in the tiles is a song of praise as Mary recounts the faithfulness of God to her and the nation of Israel.

A grateful recipient of God’s grace, Mary rejoices in her salvation (v. 47). Mary acknowledges God’s mercy has extended to the Israelites for generations (v. 50). Looking back over God’s care for the Israelites, she praises God for exercising His mighty power to act on behalf of His people (v. 51). Mary also thanks God, recognizing that her daily provisions come from His hand (v. 53).

Mary shows us that recounting the great things God has done for us is a way to express praise and can lead us to rejoice. This Christmas season, consider the invitation to list God’s goodness as you reflect on the year. In doing so, you may create a mosaic of great beauty with your words of praise.

Thanks for Being You!

When I served as my mom’s live-in caregiver at a cancer center, I got to know Lori, another caregiver who lived down the hallway from us with her husband, Frank. I would chat, laugh, vent, cry, and pray with Lori in the shared living areas. We enjoyed supporting each other as we cared for our loved ones.

One day, I missed the free shuttle that took residents to buy groceries. Lori offered to drive me to the store later that evening. With grateful tears, I accepted her offer. “Thanks for being you,” I said. I truly appreciated her for who she was as a person, not just for what she did for me as a friend.

Psalm 100 demonstrates an appreciation of God for who He is, not simply for all He does. The psalmist invites “all the earth” (v. 1) to “worship the Lord with gladness” (v. 2), being confident in knowing “the Lord is God” (v. 3). Our Maker invites us into His presence to “give thanks to him and praise his name” (v. 4). Yes, the Lord remains worthy of our ongoing thankfulness because He “is good,” His “love endures forever,” and His “faithfulness continues through all generations” (v. 5).

God will always be the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and our intimately loving Father. He deserves our genuine joy-filled gratitude.

Honoring God with Thanks

The doctor wasn’t frowning, despite talking to my husband about his recent cancer diagnosis. Smiling, she offered a suggestion: start each day by giving thanks. “For at least three things,” the doctor said.  Dan agreed, knowing that gratitude opens our hearts to find encouragement in God’s goodness. Thus, Dan starts each day with words of praise. Thank You, God, for a good night’s sleep. For my clean bed. For sunshine. For breakfast on the table. For a smile on my lips.

Each word is heartfelt. But could it sound trivial? Does our praise in life’s small details matter to Almighty God? In Psalm 50, David’s chief musician Asaph offers a clear answer. God has “no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens” (v. 9). Instead of these once-formal Israelite sacrifices of gratitude, God wants His people to give Him our hearts and lives in gratitude (vv. 14, 23).

As my husband experienced, whole-hearted gratitude helps our spirits flourish. Then when we call on the Lord “in the day of trouble,” He will “deliver” us (v. 15).  Does this mean Dan will be healed, spiritually and physically, during his two-year treatment? Or after this lifetime? We don’t know. But for now, Dan delights in showing God he’s grateful for His love, and for who God is: Redeemer. Healer. Friend.  And friends delight to hear these beautiful words: thank you.

Getting a Grip on Gratitude

The years of weariness caused by chronic pain and frustrations with my limited mobility had finally caught up with me. In my discontent, I became demanding and ungrateful. I began complaining about my husband’s caregiving skills. I griped about the way he cleaned the house. Even though he’s the best cook I know, I fussed about the lack of variety in our meals. When he finally shared that my grumbling hurt his feelings, I was resentful. He had no idea what I was going through. Eventually, God helped me see my wrongs, and I asked my husband and the Lord for forgiveness.

Longing for different circumstances can lead to complaining, and even a form of relationship-damaging self-centeredness. The Israelites were familiar with this dilemma. It seems they were never satisfied and always griping about God’s provision (Exodus 17:1–3). Even though the Lord cared for His people in the wilderness by sending them “bread from heaven” (16:4), they began craving other food (Numbers 11:4). Instead of rejoicing over the daily miracles of God’s faithful and loving care, the Israelites wanted something more, something better, something different, or even something they used to have (vv. 4–9). They took out their frustrations on Moses (vv. 10–14).

Trusting God’s goodness and faithfulness can help us get a good grip on gratitude. Today we can thank Him for the countless ways He cares for us.

Marvelous Maker

As an amateur photographer, I enjoy capturing glimpses of God’s creativity with my camera. I see His fingerprints on each delicate flower petal, each vibrant sunrise and sunset, and each cloud-painted and star-speckled sky canvas.

My camera’s powerful zoom option allows me to take photos of the Lord’s creatures too. I’ve snapped shots of a chattering squirrel in a cherry blossom tree, a colorful butterfly flitting from bloom to bloom, and sea turtles sunning on a rocky, black beach. Each one-of-a-kind image prompted me to worship my marvelous Maker.

I’m not the first of God’s people to praise Him while admiring His unique creations. The writer of Psalm 104 sings of the Lord’s many works of art in nature (v. 24). He regards “the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number” (v. 25) and rejoices in God for providing constant and complete care for His masterpieces (vv. 27–31). Considering the majesty of the God-given life around him, the psalmist bursts with worshipful gratitude: “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (v. 33).

While reflecting on the Lord’s magnificent and immense creation, we can look close at His intentional creativity and attention to detail. And like the psalmist, we can sing to our Creator with thankful praise for how powerful, majestic, and loving He is and always will be. Hallelujah!

Saying Grace

For many years, I’ve enjoyed the writings of British author G. K. Chesterton.  His humor and insight often cause me to chuckle and then pause for more serious contemplation. For example, he wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

It’s good for us to thank the Lord before every meal, but it shouldn’t stop there.  The apostle Paul saw every activity, every endeavor as something for which we should thank God and that we should do for His glory. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Recreation, occupation, and education are all avenues through which we can honor the Lord and express our gratefulness to Him.

Paul also encouraged the believers in Colossae to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (v. 15).

The best place to “say grace” is anywhere and anytime we want to give thanks to the Lord and honor Him.

Praising God’s Goodness

Someone in our Bible-study group suggested, “Let’s write our own psalms!” Initially, some protested that they didn’t have the flair for writing, but after some encouragement everyone wrote a moving poetic song narrating how God had been working in their lives. Out of trials, protection, provision, and even pain and tears came enduring messages that gave our psalms fascinating themes. Like Psalm 136, each psalm revealed the truth that God’s love endures forever. 

We all have a story to tell about God’s love—whether we write or sing or tell it. For some, our experiences may be dramatic or intense—like the writer of Psalm 136 who recounted how God delivered His people from captivity and conquered His enemies (vv. 10–15). Others may simply describe God’s marvelous creation—“who by his understanding made the heavens . . . spread out the earth upon the waters . . . who made the great lights . . . the sun to govern the day . . . the moon and stars to govern the night” (vv. 5–9).

Remembering who God is and what He has done brings out praise and thanksgiving that glorifies Him. We can then “[speak] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:19) about the goodness of the Lord whose love endures forever! Turn your experience of God’s love into a praise song of your own and enjoy an overflow of His never-ending goodness. 

The Art of a Grateful Heart

On our wedding day, Martie and I gladly vowed to be faithful “in good times as well as in bad, in sickness as well as in health, for richer or for poorer.” In a way it may seem strange to include vows about the bleak reality of bad times, sickness, and poverty on a cheerful wedding day. But it underscores the fact that life often has “bad” times.

So what are we to do when we face life’s inevitable difficulties? Paul urges us on behalf of Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As difficult as that may sound, there is good reason why God encourages us to embrace a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is grounded in the truth that our Lord “is good” and “his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). He is present with us and strengthens us in the midst of trouble (Hebrews 13:5–6), and He lovingly uses our trials to grow our character into His likeness (Romans 5:3–4).

 When life hits us with hard times, choosing to be grateful focuses our attention on the goodness of God and gives us the strength to make it through our struggles. With the psalmist, we can sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:29).

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