This week I boxed up all our Thanksgiving decorations to sit in the closet for a year. The handwritten thanksgiving banner, the small jars with prompts to thank God, the cup with past subjects to be thankful for, and the abundantly full cornucopia. The Thanksgiving season is over for another year. Out of sight and out of mind. Or should it be?
Various research has been conducted on the benefits of thankfulness (gratitude). Gratitude is associated with an increase in well-being, self-esteem, self-support; improvement in relationships, sleep, overall health; enhancement in positive emotions and optimism.
One study revealed gratitude led to less depression, more happiness, release from toxic emotions, and more sensitivity to the experience of gratefulness.
Secular research and studies agree that gratitude enhances our lives in a variety of ways. As happens a lot, secular research affirms the benefits of God’s commands. God knew that we needed to express gratitude for the well-being of our souls, so He commanded us to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Did you catch that? God commands us to give thanks! Furthermore, God knew we would have a tendency to not be thankful so He gave over 2000 verses in the Bible to remind us to give thanks. I think we should pay attention to this theme of thankfulness that is commanded and woven throughout the Bible.
God’s idea behind thankfulness is not a season of thankfulness, but a lifestyle of thankfulness. Nancy Leigh DeMoss beautifully penned, “Gratitude is a biblical lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused biblical lifestyle,” It is a lifestyle. Not a seasonal attitude. It is a spiritual discipline, ranking up there with Bible reading, scripture memorization, fellowship, fasting, and prayer. Something to be intentional about over our life time. And it is by God’s grace.
What makes thankfulness so hard? Perhaps it is because as humans we look at what we do not have instead of what we do have. Perhaps we are surrounded by people who are not thoughtful. Perhaps circumstances are hard. Perhaps we do not notice the good that is going on. Perhaps it is a habit. Perhaps it gets us attention when we whine. The list goes on and on. Elisabeth Elliot observed, “But it is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than complain about what is not given. One or the other becomes a habit of life.” Do you hear the theme of choice in these words? We can choose to be grateful or not. The choice is not connected to if we like the people or circumstances in life that God has sovereignly given us. It is based on trusting that God is good, wise, loving, and sovereign.
Though the Thanksgiving decorations are in the closet out of sight and out of mind, I plan to be intentional in keeping thanksgiving in sight and in mind. God commands me to and there are great benefits in doing so. How about you, when will your thanks occur…in a season of thankfulness or a lifestyle of thankfulness?
For your consideration: Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009. Mary Kassian’s book, Growing Grateful: Live Happy, Peaceful, and Contented, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2020. Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Love Has a Price Tag, Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2005.
 Courtney E. Ackerman, “28 Benefits of Gratitude and Most Significant Research Findings,” Positive Psychology, January 9, 2020, accessed November 15, 2020, Positivepsychology.com.
 Joshua Brown and Joel Wonn, “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” Greater Good, June 6, 2017, accessed November 15, 2020, greatergood.berkley.edu.
 Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 29.
 Elisabeth Elliot, “Love Has a Price Tag,” (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2005), 137.