(This devotional is day twenty-nine of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
For much of my life, thanksgiving has been a once a year activity. I gave thanks on Thanksgiving Day. I mean, if I do it too often, then Thanksgiving just becomes about turkey and football. Right? Okay, I wouldn’t say that (out loud), but I often live that way by marginalizing thanksgiving. As you’ve read gratitude-related passages from Scripture this month, I hope it’s opened your eyes to the relevancy and power of thanksgiving. It’s for every day and every season. It’s an action (giving thanks) and a disposition (gratitude) for all of life.
But some days we don’t feel like it. There could be many reasons that’s the case. To be honest, right now I feel tired, maybe even exhausted. I was out of town last week at a conference, made it home at 2:30 A.M. last Saturday, and was back on the road Monday morning for a week with family. Even good things can wear us out.
When I’m tired and weary, gratitude quickly flees. It’s also when I’m most likely to grumble and complain. Some days it’s because I’m more easily agitated, but other times, it’s just a tiredness that makes the eyes of the soul blurry. The mental fog moves throughout my body and gratitude seems daunting. It would be easier to say, “Not today. I’ll do that some other time.” But I know delaying thanksgiving is like hitting the sleep button. Postponing thanksgiving today makes it easier to not practice it tomorrow.
David teaches us thanksgiving sometimes requires intentionality. “Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever” (Ps. 145:2). There are enough reasons to give thanks to God daily. But that doesn’t mean we always feel grateful or notice these blessings. Don’t let your feelings and experience call the shots. Lead your feelings by reminding your heart of reasons to be thankful. As you give thanks, it helps you notice what there is to be thankful for, and slowly but surely, you might experience gratitude.
Charles Spurgeon tells us how thanksgiving builds on itself.
“Gratitude for one mercy refreshes the memory as to thousands of others. One silver link in the chain draws up a long series of tender remembrances. Here is eternal work for us, for there can be no end to the showing forth of all his deeds of love. If we consider our own sinfulness and nothingness, we must feel that every work of preservation, forgiveness, conversion, deliverance, sanctification, etc., which the Lord has wrought for us, or in us is a marvelous work.”
A Well of Blessings
Notice the various expressions David uses to describe how we can praise and thank God: extol (145:1), praise (145:2, 3, 21), bless (145:1,2, 10, 21), commend (145:4), declare (145:4, 6), speak (145:6), meditate (145:5), pour forth (145:7), sing (145:7), and give thanks (145:10).
This psalm also speaks with superlatives highlighting that God is worthy of all things praising Him at all times. We bless his name “forever and ever” (145:1, 2, 21), which includes “every day” (145:2). Generation to generation passes down stories of God’s greatness (145:4).
The Lord is good and merciful to all (145:9). All His works and all His saints will give Him thanks (145:10). His dominion and kingdom last throughout all generations (145:13). He is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works (145:13, 17). He upholds all who are falling and raises all those bowed down (145:14). The eyes of all look to Him for provision and care (145:15). He opens His hand in generosity and satisfies every living thing (145:16). He’s righteous in all His ways (145:17). He’s near to all who call on Him and sincerely seek Him (145:18). He preserves all who love Him and will destroy all the wicked (145:20). All flesh should bless His holy name (145:21).
David’s repeated use of “all” and “every” drives home the all-encompassing nature of God’s goodness and greatness as King over everything. I hope you also noticed the attributes and actions of God on display. These are the reasons David never runs out of reasons to give thanks (nor do we). These are the reasons David can wake up every day and have something to give thanks for (as do we).
A Daily Choice
Because we don’t always feel grateful or desire to give thanks, intentionality is important. We tune our heart by retraining its habits. A life of grumbling doesn’t go away at once, but by committing yourself to daily practices of thanksgiving, gratitude chips away our complaining spirit. Over time, practicing giving thanks turns into a habit, which forms in us a posture of gratitude rather than grumbling.
But remember, we start like David by choosing to give thanks “every day” (145:2). If becoming a thankful person seems way out there, just start by giving thanks today, then tomorrow, and the next day. Have a plan to do this daily.
Don’t get discouraged if this feels difficult at first. Like any training exercise, starting and keeping it up early is the hardest part. As Drew Dyck explains, “Forming a new habit (especially a good habit) is a tremendous draw on your willpower reserves. Initially the new behavior may be physically or mentally challenging. It will cut against the grain of your natural inclinations. It takes effort. Lots of it.”
I hope this Gratitude Challenge has grown your understanding and practice of thanksgiving. Part of the design of any thirty-day program is to cultivate new habits. That doesn’t make it automatic. I’ve done month-long diets before, eager to quit on day thirty-one. Rather than sliding back into old habits, commit to continuing in the habits of gratitude you’ve formed this month. Make thanksgiving part of your daily walk with Christ.
Before moving on to the next thing in your day, consider two things. First, what are five reasons you can thank God right now? And second, what would it look like for you to build a habit of thanksgiving into your daily rhythms? That could look like giving thanks before you step out of bed (and before you check your phone), at one of your meals, at a time of day you mark with a reminder, when you read the Bible, or before going to sleep.
There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for thanksgiving, so choose what works for you. But the key is to be intentional. Cultivate a posture of gratitude to God by choosing to practicing thanksgiving to God every day.
 Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, accessed at https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=9
 Drew Dyck, Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science (A Guide for Sinners, Quitters, and Procrastinators) (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019), 127.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.