Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we are directed to rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Notice that we are exhorted to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean we deny difficult realities. It is an invitation to train our brains, and hearts, to look for God and His goodness in the midst of any and all circumstances.
Gratitude is a spiritual practice that helps you notice and appreciate God’s activity in the ordinariness of life.
A regular practice of noticing and giving thanks actually trains our minds to see good things, both large and seemingly small. We become more grateful and content – even joyful – even if nothing changes in our circumstances. Practicing gratitude leads us in the way of Jesus, deeper into the heart of God, deeper into our relationship with Him.
“Part of what it means to walk in the way of Jesus is to savor the good gifts that we receive and to give thanks to God for those gifts. As we do this, we nurture a heart of gratitude and humility.” Ken Shigematsu, Survival Guide for the Soul
Let’s practice gratitude together:
Consider taking a few minutes to slow down and relax. Ask God to help you notice gifts He has given you. There is significance in writing things down so it will be helpful to have paper or a journal and something to write with as you engage with the soul-training exercise of gratitude. (Added bonus to writing it down: you have a record to look back at later when you need a reminder!)
Name the gifts
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Write out a list of as many things as you can think of to be grateful for. Feel free to include any and everything you can think of, from family and friends to Sour Patch Kids and pumpkin bars. Your list can also include things from nature (sunrises, trees, oceans) as well as activities you love (reading books, running, singing, sleeping). Don’t forget to consider including the unique gifts God has given you, as well as how God has led you to where you are.
Write down 3 things you are grateful for. Commit to a time every day for a week to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day.
Whichever option you choose - Be specific!
For example, when writing down the name of a friend or family member include something specific about them you are thankful for. Or name whether it is the warmth of the cup or the aroma or the first sip of your coffee or tea.
Once you have written things you are grateful for, spend some time giving thanks to the Giver of all these gifts. Read over your list and direct your gratitude toward God. Praise Him for his presence, kindness, generosity, and abundant love.
Consider making this habit of noticing the gifts and thanksgiving a daily practice.
Other options for practicing gratitude:
Say “Thank you” to 3 people today. Use specifics – point out exactly what the person did and the good you see in them.
Create a gratitude jar. Write it down the things you are grateful for on a small piece of paper and collect them in a jar. Occasionally pull out the notes and remind yourself of the things you have been grateful for.
Make a game of noticing new things each day.