When I was growing up, Mom or Dad usually said “the blessing,” a rote prayer, before supper. Sometimes Dad told one of my three brothers or me to say it. Being kids, we flew through it so we could eat. And then one day Dad instructed the four of us to each write multiple prayers that would become our suppertime prayers. “I want you to think about what you’re thankful to God for and write it into prayers,”
I still remember walking to my bedroom thinking, “I bet nobody else’s family does this.” None of us had ever written a prayer before. But, we wrote them, and for weeks, we took turns and read one person’s written prayer each night at supper. Though I rolled my eyes the day Dad assigned this “task,” I enjoyed listening to my brothers’ prayers and sharing mine.
Over the years, I strayed significantly from Dad’s effort to lead us to thoughtfully thank God—until I began to read the Bible. Oh, sometimes I thanked Him for giving me something I was praying for or for helping me out of a hard situation—but that’s about it.
“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Ps. 9:1)
When something wonderful happens in our life, we feel like being thankful. We tell others about the wonderful thing God did. However, read all of Psalm 9. The psalmist describes his current affliction and oppression. He recalls others’ long seasons of trial.
Yet, he trusts God. He recounts ALL of God’s wonderful deeds—not only his personal experiences of God’s goodness. The psalmist knows the testaments of God’s people who have lived before him.
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (v. 10)
When I started reading the Bible, I began to get to know God. He writes His Word on our heart and gives us recall for His wonderful deeds that cover all of time. Our view of Who God IS no longer is limited to our life experiences of Him. His Word shapes our view to include the testimonies of all His people.
The Old and New Testament reveal His steadfast love, faithfulness, and grace over generations, as His people walk through hardship, trouble, long waits, and great loss.
So how does this affect our gratitude?
Our heart swells with gratitude for who God IS.
Who God IS anchors our gratitude—not circumstances.
Whenever I read or hear someone’s words of brave gratitude toward God, I think, Wow, her trust in God is strong. God grows this strength in you and me— as we believe HIs Word and as we recognize Him moving throughout our day. . . Thank you, Lord, that you will lead me through this…that you see everything…that your plans are perfect…that you are with me right now…that I have eternity with you…
Yeah, being thankful is brave. We stare our troubles in the face and trust that our God is so much bigger.
Life can be really hard. Each of us face hardship, heartache, short and long seasons of discouragement. Sometimes when we don’t think we can endure one more thing, one more thing happens. The details of our stories vary, but the themes mirror those of generations of God’s people. The emotions and thoughts that wear us down and wreak havoc within are common to us. And God IS.
Especially in my hardest seasons, prayers of gratitude shift my perspective. When we thank God, we mark His goodness—in creation, in the generations before us, in the testimonies of our friends and strangers. We remember countless gifts we don’t deserve—a loved one, an ability, an experience, a miracle. We remember who God IS.
“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4.15–16)