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How Can I Be Continually Appreciative of the Blessings in My Life?
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada – an annual holiday, as declared by parliament as, “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” 1 But what does it mean to give thanks? Is it simply an action or automatic reply when someone has done something worthy of thanks? Or is there more to this word that defines a whole day in the Canadian calendar? The English language has another word synonymous to the word “thankful” that may bring some helpful perspective. The synonym is the word “grateful”. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, while both words are similar in meaning, there is one exception. Being thankful is defined as being “conscious of benefits received” 2, while being grateful is defined as being “appreciative of benefits received”3. From these simple definitions, we understand that giving thanks is not only being conscious of and acknowledging the good things that we have received, but also being genuinely appreciative of them. How can we be continually appreciative of the blessings in our lives? I propose we first get to know the Giver of blessings, that we practice gratitude daily, and that we express gratitude through our actions.
Get to know the Giver of blessings
When I was young I used to think that my Christmas gifts came from Santa Claus. Until one day, I realized, it just didn’t make sense that the gifts I was getting would simply appear under the Christmas tree and they would be the very things my parents knew I wanted. Needless to say I ask my parents directly if they were the ones giving me the Christmas gifts and they admitted with laughter. I remember being in shock, but at the same time, I also remember having even more appreciation for my parents who worked hard to give me gifts at Christmas because they love me. When we know who gives the blessings in our lives, we grow in appreciation – we grow in true thanksgiving
The Bible tells us in the book of James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]” (AMP). From this verse we can know that everything good, not just some things good, but everything good comes from the our Heavenly Father God, who is the Creator, Sustainer of our lives, and He never changes. As we get to know Him through the reading of Scripture in the Bible, through conversations with other Christian believers, through prayer communication with Him and through enjoying His creation, we grow in appreciation of who He is and all that He does.
Practice gratitude daily
The word “grace” in the original Greek language is “charis”, which is also found in the Greek word for gratitude, “eucharistian”. Gratitude in its essence is a response to experiencing grace, which is a feeling of happiness toward someone who has demonstrated kindness to you that you did not deserve. To be continually appreciative of the blessings in our lives, we must continually remember the grace we’ve been shown by our Lord Jesus and by the people He has put in our lives. If we’re not sure where to begin in that process of remembering the grace we’ve been shown, we need look no further than the cross of Christ and the debt He paid for us with His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, for our freedom from death and for our life of abundance in Him by the power of His Spirit.
Practicing gratitude daily could mean taking time each day to pause and think about the various blessings that the Lord has given to you, that honestly, you did not deserve or that you could not have orchestrated on your own. But remember, it’s not enough to just make a list and move on, but to take time to allow feelings of appreciation to flood your heart toward the Lord through prayer, praise and worship. Every time I have done this, I can tell you without fail, the things I so often wish I had, or felt I lacked didn’t matter so much anymore. I become more aware of the Lord Jesus as my Shepherd, who loves me, cares for me and gives me everything I need according to Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul” (NIV).
Express gratitude through your actions
Being appreciative of the blessings in our lives necessitates that we are moved to action. Perhaps this is the ultimate form of expressing gratitude, where we have been so overwhelmed by the goodness of God and His blessings in our lives that we can’t help but give back to Him and to others around us. In my family, actions really do speak louder than words. Whether it’s my mom who always makes sure my siblings and I are well fed or have the right resources for being healthy, or my dad who is always ready to help fix something broken in my home, my initial reaction is to thank and hug them. But often times my appreciation of them goes further and I will want to help them with errands or be a ready tech support when they need it. These things don’t seem like much, but I know my parents sense my gratitude toward them – and of course we make a point to tell each other too!
The Bible has many references to thanksgiving that is coupled with action. In Psalm 95:2, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (NIV). Here we see the giving of thanks that goes beyond thought, but into songs of praise and worship to God. When Jesus received a young boy’s lunch made up of five barley loaves and two fish in order to feed over 5000 people, he gave thanks to the God (John 6:11). Jesus showed us that it honours our Heavenly Father when we thank Him for His blessings, no matter the size, and that we trust Him with whatever our needs are. Jesus showed His gratitude and then began to step out by faith as he told his disciples to distribute the food that would multiply to feed thousands more. Whatever our action step may be in expressing gratitude, we can be sure that the miraculous power of God is possible as we are led by His Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, no matter where we are, no matter how much we have, no matter who we’re with, may we purpose to be continually appreciative of the many blessings God has given to us. Let us continue to know the One gives all things good, because as we know Him, we grow in appreciation. Let us continue to practice being grateful every day, because it keeps our mind set on the Lord who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Finally, let us express our gratitude through our actions, as this brings glory to God and helps point people to Him.