Thanksgiving is over, and today Americans embark on the frenzy of shopping, wrapping, planning, and partying that comes with the Christmas season.
I sometimes think we view Thanksgiving as an appetizer that tickles our taste buds and prepares us for the real meal. We see it as the starting point for the holidays, the humble precursor to bigger and better things. We inhale stuffing and mashed potatoes, maybe watch a game of football or a parade, and move on.
But what if, instead of leaving Thanksgiving behind in the dust and detritus of Black Friday, we kept it alive and carried it forward into the remaining holiday season?
No, I’m not suggesting we leave the cornucopias on display alongside the Christmas tree. But the act of thanksgiving itself—gratitude—that’s something we need to hang onto.
Here are a few thoughts on why I think thanksgiving is vital to a vibrant life and how embracing it can bring us more joy, peace, and abundance throughout this season and beyond.
Thanksgiving Leads to Rejoicing
In Philippians 4:4 (NLT), Paul instructs: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”
That sounds great, but how? What if we don’t naturally feel joyful?
The answer follows in verse 6: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done [emphasis added].”
Here’s the thing: We don’t have to feel happy to engage in the act of giving thanks. But once we begin to express gratitude, we're sure to start feeling happier.
And, thankfully, thanksgiving is not difficult to do. In its most basic form, it’s noticing the good around us, taking pleasure in those things, and pausing to say thank you. It can be as simple as appreciating the sunshine glittering on the snow or savoring the burbling brook-like laughter of your child. As we slow down, pay attention, savor, and give thanks, we turn tiny moments of everyday into opportunities to rejoice.
As we slow down, pay attention, savor, and give thanks, we turn tiny moments of everyday into opportunities to rejoice.
Thanksgiving Postures Us to Receive
When we say thank you, we acknowledge that we have been given something. As I say thank you for the good in my life, I’m intentionally receiving beauty, I’m receiving joy. I’m accepting the provisions around me and welcoming them as gifts. As we count our blessings, we develop a deeper awareness of what we have been given, and we put ourselves into a posture conducive to receiving more.
This principle is true in the best of times, but perhaps is at its most powerful and dramatic in times of difficulty.
In his book, Crafted Prayer, Graham Cooke explains how thanksgiving and provision go hand in hand. He says: “We can thank God first, in every situation, because every problem we encounter comes with His provision attached to it. God has a plan and a purpose for us; He says that everything works together for those who love Him. That promise is a deep well of provision for us. Whatever calamity life throws at us, God can use it for our blessing and our benefit. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” Paul wrote in Romans 8:28. It is that attribute of God’s nature that makes it so critical for us to come to a place of thanksgiving.”
I know in my own life, I’ve often seen provision—the guidance, resources, or encouragement I need—be released as I choose to unhook myself from thoughts of “what if” and “I don’t know what to do” and instead thank God for who He is and for the wisdom he promises to provide.
Thanksgiving Produces Rest
Remember how Paul directs us to give thanks? Immediately after that statement, he says: "THEN [emphasis added] you will experience God's peace..." (Philippians 4:7, NLT).
Jesus has already provided for our every need, ache, pain, hurt, and issue. As we express gratitude, we affirm that the work of Christ is complete—IT IS FINISHED. There is no problem He hasn’t seen and doesn’t have a creative a solution for.
This awareness, combined with the knowledge that we are free to receive all this from Him, allows us to enter rest. Our hearts calm down and we’re able to stop fretting and fussing. Thanksgiving is a pathway to the rest and peace of knowing God’s “got this,” and we don’t need to worry.
Reap the Benefits All Year Long
The celebration of Thanksgiving is about nourishment and expressing gratitude for having our needs met, and the act of gratitude, in turn, has the power to nurture us with increased joy, rest, and provision.
Fortunately, thanksgiving isn’t limited to the fourth Thursday of November. With a little change in perspective and a whisper of praise, we can reap its benefits all year long.
I’ll be sharing more on gratitude in the next month or two, but in the meantime, I encourage you to take a moment to consider what you have to be thankful for today. What sparks joy, wonder or delight?
I’d love to hear about it!