Being Thankful is a Choice

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1Thes. 5:18 (NLT)

A form of the word “thanks” occurs about 150 times in Scripture making it very evident that God values thankful hearts

Being thankful is a choice.  If it were not a choice, God wouldn’t be commanding us to be thankful.  The pilgrims chose to be thankful after their first year in America even though they experienced sickness, deaths, and various hardships. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln chose to declare that “the last Thursday in November be a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.”

When we choose to be thankful, our spirits are lifted.  We can not be discouraged and thankful at the same time.  We can not teach our children to be thankful when we are ungrateful.  As in everything, we lead by example.

“Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”- Charles Dickens


Positive Effects of Thankfulness

How’s your thank you list going?  Regularly writing down what you are thankful for can increase your level of happiness by at least 25%.   I have always believed that an attitude of gratitude is vital to your happiness and your health because of what Scripture indicates. (Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” is just one example.)

However, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier offers scientific evidence of this and that a grateful spirit actually improves your health: “The person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress  . . . recover more quickly from illness, and benefit from greater physical health.”   I haven’t read the book yet, but I am always thrilled when scientists discover the reality of what Scripture has always said.  Read more of the research results here.

I read Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy this year as I was going through a difficult time in my life.   The book was a fresh reminder to concentrate on being thankful, which did tremendously help me cope with my circumstances at the time.   God doesn’t just tell us to do something for no reason.  He has our best interest in mind when He says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:18

Let’s teach our children early to have an attitude of gratitude, not just so we look good when they utter an unsolicited thank you to the waitress ;-), but so that throughout their lives they will experience all the positive effects of thankfulness that God intends for them.


Keeping Thanks in Thanksgiving: Bible Stories

Use the Bible to make your children aware of people who thanked God.  The first Bible story that comes to mind that has to do with thanks is the story of the Ten Lepers in Luke 17:11-19.  Ten lepers came to Jesus and were healed, but only one came back to say thank you.  At you can buy an Arch book about this entitled He Remembered to Say Thank You.    Our children loved the Arch Books as they tell the Bible stories in rhyme and the pictures are very colorful. There are many Bible stories available in the Arch Series.

The story of Hannah A Mother Who Prayed (also an Arch books) is an example of thankfulness as she earnestly prayed for a child and when God answered her prayer, she gave Him thanks. This story is found in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.

The Psalms are full of David’s thank yous.  And Paul talks often of his thankfulness for various things.

If you don’t have the books, read the stories in the Bible for yourself, and then tell them in your own words with expression.  Be creative and use visuals.  For example for the Ten Lepers you can make 10 paper dolls with dots all over them on one side and then flip them over  to reveal the spots are all gone when you talk about Jesus healing them.  Have all of them leave, and then one of them comes back to thank Jesus.


Keeping Thanks in Thanksgiving: Express Thanks to Others

God deserves all our praise and thanksgiving, but He also wants us to have a grateful spirit toward others. God says in Matthew 25:40 that when we do something for others, it is like doing it for Him.

Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Tell others how thankful you are for them, what they do, their attitude, their smile, their words, etc.

Make thank you notes for people in your life that you don’t normally think of thanking, such as the mailman, doctor, teacher, grandparent, the men who pick up the trash, your waiter, the paint mixer at Lowe’s, the UPS delivery man, your children, your spouse.

Be specific and creative.  Lead the whole family to participate in making cards or expressing thanks in some way.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”- William Arthur Ward.


Keeping Thanks in Thanksgiving – A ‘Thank You God for’ List

About the 1st of November, I used to always put a large piece of paper on the refrigerator  with the words, “Thank you God for” at the top.  Family members were encouraged to regularly write down something they are thankful for.  This has been a tradition for many years in our home. We enjoy writing our own and reading what the rest of the family has written.

Now that we are separated from of our children most of the time, we start a thanksgiving Groupme chat about the first of November and we all post on it throughout the month. (You can download the Groupme app for group texting – this has really helped to keep our family connected!) Writing down your blessings can really change your outlook.  As the old hymn by Johnson Oatman says, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”