Thanksgiving at the Jobe home is a festive event. Since my wife, Dee, has a large extended family, we often crowd as many as 30 people around our table. But before we carve the turkey and enjoy the delicious meal, we gather in a circle to pray. Family members and guests share the things for which they are thankful. And it probably doesn't surprise you that this often ends with many of us tearing up. Giving thanks touches everyone!
What you may not know is that giving thanks has physical benefits! Two psychologists did a study where one group of participants was asked to journal every day, listing things for which they were grateful, the other group wrote about irritations. After 10 weeks, those who expressed gratitude felt more optimistic and better about their lives.
But more than just feeling good, giving thanks has great spiritual benefit because it puts our attention back on God. It turns our hearts and minds away from our preoccupations, our own false sense of control, and recognizes the fact that everything we are and all we have come directly from Him.
Psalm 136 begins with a phrase repeated in the Bible: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” The Psalm goes on to detail God’s work in Israel’s past, guiding and protecting His people. Living in a constant state of thanksgiving is challenging but important for us as well.
Turning our attention to praise fights off our tendency to worry. “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Ps. 103:2, 3). What are you burdened by today? When you turn your attention to God, and give Him the praise He deserves, you will become more aware of His presence and start to discover peace that only He can bring.
Thanking and praising God give voice to our dependence on Him. Praise invites God to be present in the now of our lives, whether joyous or difficult. It makes room to recognize God’s goodness. This should not just be a one-time-a-year thing but a defining part of life: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live” (Ps. 63:3, 4).
May our Thanksgiving continue long after the last morsel of turkey is gone. May thankfulness and praise become a natural overflow of our grateful heart.