"Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot." — West African Proverb
I tore those simple words out of a health and wellness magazine a year or two ago and hung them on the fridge. After a while they started to blend in, feeling ordinary just like the other papers and cards and magnets cluttered around them. I'd glance at them occasionally, but their poignancy seldom stuck with me.
The page hung that way for weeks, and even months, until I started reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts Devotional. The book’s challenge to count my blessings and daily write them down—until I reach one thousand of them in all—suddenly made those simple words stick again.
Recording our thanks—writing them down, praying them out, singing them loud—is nothing new. Throughout the Bible women and men penned their praise and expressed their gratitude to God. Take Moses who wrote the first psalm way back in Exodus. Consider Ruth and Hannah. And what about David—who's songs and prayers, along with those of several others, make up the Psalms? Think about Paul's letters, John visions, and the Revelation church's songs. Pointing out God's goodness, penning it down, and praising it is woven throughout redemption like a gleaming golden thread.
Of all the places we read where God's goodness is penned and praised, perhaps the most obvious—and certainly the most repetitive—is found in Ps. 136. Twenty-five times the writer recounts an aspect of God's character or evidence of his conduct followed by "…for his steadfast love endures forever."
Take verse 1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The psalm begins here and ends 26 verses later with a simple invocation—give thanks. The Hebrew word can mean to throw, shoot, or cast. It can describe hands raised to God or a hand pointing something out. It is most often translated thanks, praise, confess.
Taken together it seems that these simple words—“give thanks”—call God's people to point out His goodness and praise Him for each attribute and action they experience.
Here in Psalm 136, the people begin with God Himself—His character. Then they move to creation, through the Exodus, into the wilderness, onward into the Promise Land, and finally arrive at the current day. After recording God’s past faithfulness, the people sing of God's faithful care for them.
So often we live such hurried, doubtful, fearful, and forgetful lives. But this record, this collection of blessings woven together in Psalm 136, reminds us that every act and attribute of God we see is fueled by His steadfast love. To fail to see it is to miss something sacred, namely God Himself.
The more we give thanks for a little, the more we will certainly find a lot. We have more than we realize. Namely, a God who’s faithful, loving character is revealed in every creative, caring act.
So as we gather round our tables and give thanks today, let's not limit our thanksgiving to this day. Instead may we look for ways to give God thanks—to point Him out and praise His goodness every single day. As we do may we see the gracious Giver behind every good gift.