Thanksgiving Day calls us to reflect and give thanks to God and others. But, many charge through the day without a single thought of gratitude. Missing the point of Thanksgiving Day is tragic. Failure to give thanks stymies us — not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day.
Here are five things that happen when we fail to give thanks.
- We miss out. After healing 10 lepers Jesus asked the one that returned to give thanks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks to God?… Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17-19) All ten were healed physically, but only one received a second and greater blessing — faith that made him well. All ten appeared fully restored, but only one was heart-healed. It’s a tragedy when circumstances improve and yet our hearts remain sick. We miss out on total healing when we fail to give thanks.
- We harm relationships. Socially, ingratitude is like horribly bad breath. People avoid complainers whenever possible and endure them only when necessary. Energy drains out of a room when grumblers enter. Nothing alienates like failing to thank others who help along the way. Trust breaks down. Resentment builds. Ingratitude makes a person ugly, shallow and annoying.
- We sabotage our joy. Psychologically, thanklessness is self harming. We blame circumstances for stealing contentment but often another thief (ingratitude) was already inside and allowed to loot first. We get mad at others for assaulting our peace but don’t recognize how we may have already subverted it.
- We grow extra weary. Physically, ingratitude has the same effects as starvation. Health requires a steady diet of thanksgiving. But when we starve our heart of the nourishment it needs our body feels the effects — tiredness, muscle pain, head aches, clouded thinking and lowered immunity. (Medical studies show that practicing gratitude has many benefits including: heightened immunity, increased alertness, improved sleep, and decreased pain.)
- We endanger our soul. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…[they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [idols]” (Romans 1:21,23) Godless ingratitude, let unchecked, will consume our soul with darkness and eventually disintegrate our humanity.¹
It’s good to feed your stomach delicious food, but this Thanksgiving commit to feeding your heart gratitude.
- Remember Small Blessings: Take time to notice benefits, large and small. Thank God for food, shelter, health, relationships, modern conveniences and pleasant experiences. By getting specific you’ll realize the innumerable blessings you take for granted. Recounting them will change your perspective from a restless emptiness to a serene fullness.
- Don’t Wait to Encourage: Take initiative to tell loved ones and friends at least one thing you appreciate about them. Lead an “encouragement game” where participants are required to answer thoughtfully about others. Start with these questions or develop your own:
- What do you appreciate about _____?
- How have you seen ______ care for another person?
- How has ______ grown over the past year?
- What special memories did you create with _______?
- Comfort Pain, Reflect Gain: Invite people to share about the year’s lows and thank them for their honesty. Offer grace by listening. As people share their pain be on the look out for positive character traits (strength, honesty, perseverance, wisdom, grit, grace, humor) and reflect them through encouragement. When you don’t know how to respond admit it. Tell them you care and ask how you can help.
- Pass Forgiveness Forward: In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ answer was unexpected (He replied seventy times seven times.) He raised the bar and told a story that illustrated the lavish forgiveness of God toward us. The moral of the story was — since God has forgiven you extravagantly, you can (and must) forgive others. Only when you’ve experience forgiveness can you pass it forward. Thank God for the total forgiveness granted in Jesus Christ and let that melt your heart toward those hard to forgive.
- Enjoy Divine Peace: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Only Jesus Christ is capable of winning the war with anxiety. Jesus overcame the worst of our broken world. His life proved God’s unending perseverance with you and his power transformed even death. You can trust God. Thankfully anticipating God’s goodness toward you and you will enjoy a divine peace, which surpasses your understanding.¹
Don’t blow another Thanksgiving. Make the most of the day. You won’t regret it and others may even thank you.
¹Special thanks to Tom Hallman for suggesting I add a fifth danger and blessing.