The Thanksgiving holiday is widely publicized and celebrated by millions of Americans. But shouldn’t we be thankful every day?
I plan to eat very well this Thanksgiving, as I do every Thanksgiving. I will indulge myself in mashed potatoes and gravy, savor the sweet potato casserole, and eat a week’s worth of protein in turkey. Don’t even get me started on the pies.
Calories don’t count on Thanksgiving, right?
There are many things people do on Thanksgiving besides just eating. Some spend extra time with family members they don’t normally get to see, go around the table listing things each person is thankful for, and (hopefully) begin the meal with a prayer thanking God for His many blessings.
Is Thanksgiving more than food and football?
But there are also other things people do on this day that aren’t always so positive: extreme overeating (bordering on gluttony), watching football on TV more than speaking to one another, or rushing out to beat others to the best shopping deals.
For many, Thanksgiving is just about food and entertainment. It’s even commonly called “Turkey Day,” as if it’s a day to celebrate an avian life-form. It’s become more about enjoying blessings than giving thanks for them.
Admittedly, it may be unfair to try to stuff (pun intended) an enormous ongoing personal responsibility into just one day out of the year. Is there more to thankfulness than just this one day of the year?
What thanksgiving actually is
The Bible has a lot to say about thanksgiving—that is, the act and mind-set of thankfulness. From God’s perspective, thanksgiving isn’t the fourth Thursday in November; it is a constant way of thinking that God wants us to practice every day.
By giving thanks to God in prayer, we show Him that we acknowledge that all the good things we have in life did not just randomly show up on our doorstep—but are from Him.In addition, modern science has shown that being a thankful person is connected to better mental and physical health.
That’s why we should be practicing thanksgiving 365 days a year (and, yes, that also includes the fourth Thursday of November).
One of the primary ways to practice thanksgiving daily is to give thanks to God for what He has given us every day in our prayers.
Studying the Psalms (many of which are actual prayers recorded for us to learn from) can teach us many ways we can integrate thanksgiving into our prayers. (For example, see Psalm 26:7; 50:14; 69:30; 95:2; 100:4; 107:22; 116:17; 147:7; and so many more.)
By giving thanks to God in prayer, we show Him that we acknowledge that all the good things we have in life did not just randomly show up on our doorstep—but are from Him.
Here are some things we can give thanks to God for regularly:
- His calling and work in our lives (Colossians 3:17).
- The people He has brought into our lives (1 Timothy 2:1).
- Past blessings when we are asking for future blessings (Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2).
- Everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Practical tips on being thankful
So what are some practical ways we can expand thanksgiving from a one-day-a-year thing to an ongoing practice in our life?
- Every day in prayer, give thanks to God for blessings we have. Don’t let a single prayer go by without giving God thanks for something He has done (or provided) for us.
- Every day in our conversations, thank someone for something he or she did (or said) that brought something positive into our life or the lives of others. People positively impact us every day, but we don’t always acknowledge it. Start acknowledging it!
- Consider blessings we have that we don’t think about often. We can put our stress and difficulties in perspective by actively thinking about all the blessings we have received. Some people find it helpful to write those blessings down in a list. When we look at our list, we will probably find blessings that millions (maybe billions!) of people on the planet do not have. That shouldn’t make us feel better about ourselves. Quite to the contrary, it should help us realize that thanksgiving is designed to lead us to be merciful and giving to others.
- Are you thankful for consistent electricity? Remember, more than a billion people can’t say the same.
- Are you thankful for having two loving parents alive? Remember how many billions of people can’t say this, and how many desperately would want this to be true.
- Are you thankful for a big Thanksgiving dinner in November? Remember how many billions of people in the world will never eat a meal like that in their lives.
Each of us probably has unlimited things to be thankful for!
The benefits of being thankful
Thanksgiving is a way of thinking and a constant action God is looking for in all of us. It helps us to realize God’s power and working in our lives, and it should remind us to be merciful, kind and generous to others. It actually improves our mental and physical well-being.
Thanksgiving is not just a day in November; it is a way of life. Let’s live it.