How We’re Learning
by Brenda Pace
Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you God for everything.
I reach back through the years and hear the singsong voices of my two boys repeating this prayer before mealtime. While the prayer may seem rote and childish, the admonition is still worthy of consideration—especially that last line: “Thank you God for everything.”
How is it even possible to thank God for everything?
What kind of theology was I teaching my children, anyway?
Well, it turns out that line is straight up truth taken directly from Scripture:
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I repeat: How is that possible?
Cue the Apostle Paul who authored the verses above. Paul, who experienced beatings, imprisonment, slander, and shipwreck, wrote the words in 1 Thessalonians to new believers who met with persecution soon after their choice to follow Jesus. And get this—Paul most likely wrote Ephesians from a prison cell! From the words he wrote, we could surmise he practiced what he preached.
Here are a few things he said when life was not what I would call thanksgiving worthy:
- Sing praise to God when you’re beaten and jailed (Acts 16:25).
- Praise God for trials because they produce perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3).
- Express joy (over and over) when folks lie about you and—here it is again—throw you in jail (Philippians 1:3-4, 25; 3:1; 4:4).
The important thing to note: Paul is not instructing us to give thanks for everything, but in everything. That means:
- When military orders send me to a place I do not want to go—give thanks.
- When a commander is less than family friendly—give thanks.
- When my kids are struggling to adjust to a new environment—give thanks.
- When my extended family is in one part of the country, but the military sends me to the opposite side of the country (or the world!)—give thanks.
Paul makes it clear that thanksgiving is not optional for the believer. Why? As I express my gratitude to God, I acknowledge he is in control of my life and I identify him as the source of every blessing. I choose to place my trust in his ability to work all things—everything—for my good (Romans 8:28).
So, does that mean gratitude and thanksgiving are a duty? No! But, it does mean that it can become a disciplined expression of what I truly believe—that God is working in every situation and can use every situation to bring about his divine will.
How to be Grateful for Everything:
- Remember that thanksgiving is a response of a life filled with the Spirit of God. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul includes giving thanks always for everything in the name of Jesus Christ in a list of characteristics of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-directed life. Wow! That puts a new spin on giving thanks!
- Read Scriptures that focus on thanksgiving. Here’s a list of Scriptures written by the Apostle Paul. Note the context of Paul’s writing and the priority he places on giving thanks.
1 Corinthians 1:4-5
2 Corinthians 4:15-16
2 Corinthians 9:11-12
1 Thessalonians 5:18
1 Timothy 4:4-5
- Reflect on your blessings. I love the old hymn that encourages, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done!” The writing of Ann Voskamp has focused exceptional attention to the topic and practice of gratitude. She writes, “There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”
Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time for your family to practice giving thanks for small things that can remind you of God’s goodness in everything. The tradition in our family is to write one thing or event from over the past year for which we are thankful. We post the notes on a board to read during the prayer before our meal.
Of course, thanksgiving for God’s provision is to be more than a ritual during the fall season. What do you think of thanksgiving as a characteristic of a life filled with God’s Spirit?
Check out Ann Voskamp’s website to find free printables to download that will to aid in your daily practice of giving thanks.
A quick search on Pinterest will lead you to a plethora of Thanksgiving Day printables for your family celebration.