The American colonists had recently settled in the new land. Away from tyranny and oppression, they sought a new life and freedom for worship and growth. Through many hardships, sickness and death, they spent much time in fasting and prayer. On one occasion while discussing their plight, one person suggested they set aside yet another day for fasting. “We’ve been dwelling too much on our past,” he pointed out. “We’ve talked only of our troubles and problems since we’ve been here. It’s time we emphasize our blessings!” The colony was making good progress. The harvests of potatoes and squash were bountiful, the streams were full of fish and the forests yielded much game of deer and wild fowl. Their Indian neighbors were friendly and the pilgrims now had what they had dreamed of for so long – liberty. They were finally free from the tyranny and religious opposition they once felt. “We need to be thankful to God for His abundant blessings towards us,” he continued, “let us set aside one day to do just that.” Instead of fasting, they feasted; it became a day of great thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving surpasses worry, pessimism, fear and loneliness for negativism and thankfulness cannot co-exist. “Positive affirmations become the inevitable consequence of a thankful spirit,” says John Haggai. Gratitude promotes emotional health and purifies the mind. An attitude of gratitude is demonstrated through actions, gestures, and facial expressions. Deciding to be thankful (‘thinkful’)for the little things in life can actually generate a moment-by-moment awareness and produce a grateful heart. Gratitude clears out any reason to grumble and sets a happy atmosphere that actually attracts others!
Is it possible to give thanks even though the economy is getting worse, the job market is at an all-time low, and stocks are falling? Yes. It is possible, though it may be difficult to even put food on the table. A thankful spirit must be pursued and cultivated in the soil of the soul; a thankful spirit is learned behavior. David, the Psalmist declared that forcing oneself to give thanks when we least feel like it is a “sacrifice” (Psalm 116:17). A sacrifice hurts, but is sometimes necessary and healing. That is why God called David the apple of His eye because he knew how to give thanks in the good times and in the bad times. We, too, are admonished to “offer the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips.”
The Apostle Paul said it this way: “I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether … hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (The Message, Philippians 4:12). The NIV says “I have learned to be content…”
The old Anglo-Saxon word for thankfulness was thinkfulness. “We don’t need more to be thankful for; we just need to be more thankful,” said one wise sage. When we stop worrying about all the problems and begin to think on things that are true, just, or of good report (things for which to be really thankful), our whole outlook can change. Attitude alone can create a completely new environment. Jean Baptiste Massieu said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”
Why give thanks? Why be thankful in your circumstances? Is there anything true or of good report? Yes! The first great truth is that God is the great Problem-solver and Peace-giver. God has the answer to all those sticky problems. When we least feel like talking to God is when we need to respond the most. One always feels taller when on their knees. God is just and He is true, and He is ready to help when you ask.
How about a moment of daily meditation upon first awakening to start the day on a good report? Thank the Heavenly Father for a new day full of challenges and surprises – and that His mercies are new every morning. Thank Him for a capable mind to tackle those challenges! Refocus. Attempt to see that sticky problem as a wonderful opportunity for God to reveal His love in a special way!
Take several thank breaks during the day to reflect on God’s goodness. Think of the treasure of family, the love and support of friends, the gracious gifts given so freely. Reflect on pleasant memories and happy times.
Keep a journal as a written reminder (or “think list”) of things for which to be thankful. Fill it with answers to prayer or special blessings from A to Z. Reflect on forgotten gifts sometimes taken for granted. (Example: Air; Breath; Children, etc.). Read these observances when feeling low or despondent. One author stated, “Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.”
Deliberately inject expressions of thanksgiving into daily conversations. Become a thankful person by showing an attitude of gratitude. Pause to think and there will be cause to thank. Learn the secret of cultivating a ‘thinkful’ spirit, and make the joyful discovery of a thankful heart!