Saying Thank You to God does not have to be a chore — but then again, given the way we are instructed to do things within a cold, contemporary, corporate Christian environment, it is a bit difficult:
“We must thank God for everything,” we are admonished, or . . . what? He’ll kick us?
Actually, the apostle Paul’s oft quoted words of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — “Give thanks in all circumstances,” reflect the important prepositional distinction of “in” as opposed to “for,” meaning that, when the cat throws up on the new white carpet we don’t have to be thankful for what just happened. We just don’t kick the cat.
The funny thing about our relationship with God is, that though we insist that He’s a person and and we interact with Him on a personal level, we frequently don’t treat Him as if we believed this. Getting into the practice of saying Thank You to Him, on a regular basis, however, is one way we can connect more closely to Him on that personal level we so deeply desire and desperately need.
Thank You Notes
Many of us have had, somewhere during our childhood, a determined adult who put our recently opened Christmas or birthday gifts to the side, set us down at a table with pen and paper, and said,
“Write a nice, brief Thank You note to the people who took the time and resources to give you these gifts.”
(Or, at the very least, yelled out from the kitchen, “Did you thank Aunt Mary for the lime green leather dress shoes?”)
In the spirit of that Thank You note, here are some ideas on how we can incorporate a genuine, real, and regular Thank You to God into our daily lives:
Talk to Him
1) We can feel free to use a conversational tone. The best thank you notes are short, succinct, and clear, as are verbal thank yous, the chief and foremost words being, “Thank You.”
Throughout the day, as things happen, I stop, take a moment, and say (aloud if no one’s in the room but the dog snoring in corner),
“Thank you that phone call from my friend, and that we were able to work out our disagreement. I had no idea that my words had been so misunderstood.”
In the same way we wouldn’t write or say, “Oh, wonderful giver of this precious gift, I thank Thee for all thy bounty and affection,” we have no obligation to talk to God this way. It artificially distances us.
Little Things Matter
2) Let us be grateful for small things. Not all gifts are lofty and expensive, but that’s not the beauty of a gift. Gifts are a tangible sign of the giver’s care for us.
For many years, a very dear and good man sent us cards and notes, and never failed to tuck in two $1 bills, and while that seems like a treasure trove to a five-year-old, it can easily be discounted by an adult.
But it should not be. Those two bills were precious to a man with limited financial resources but a big heart, and we always took a moment to be grateful as we opened the card, as well as wrote sincere thanks in our next letter.
God gives us many precious and beautiful gifts throughout the day that we overlook, because they seem like two one-dollar bills: a compliment on how we look from a co-worker, a good night’s sleep, hot tea on a cold day, the dishes we expect to do on getting home from work already cleaned, dried and put away.
These are not the less for being small, and after we thank the person who has provided the present, we thank the Giver of All Things as well, that He prompted His children to be generous.
3) We have a tendency to say, “Thank you, but . . . “
From the time our children were small, we gave them to understand that, while we spent a significant amount of time thinking of the perfect gift for their birthdays and other holidays, we would never include a CD, DVD, or digital item in that list. Mass media products are, in our mind, narrow in their interest and value, and with the limited amount of funds we always had, we wanted the gifts we gave to be memorable.
The kids understood this — although until they were older they were sometimes vaguely irritated — but at no time would they have dreamed, after opening a box, of saying,
“This is okay, Mom and Dad. But I really, really wanted the DVD of that movie I told you about!”
Yet so often with God, when He sends an unexpected boon our way — the money to pay a bill that we were worried about, say — we mentally blurt out,
“I’m glad this bill is paid, but I really wish You had sent more so that I could have some fun!”
Getting into the habit of this is easy (because frankly, there is no end to the things we need, or think we need) but we lose in the end, because we don’t feel the joy of the gifts we are given.
“What’s This Thing?”
4) Some gifts aren’t what we asked for at all.
Those of us with children, especially children who have just attended Vacation Bible School, have been presented with some truly dreadful gifts, and the average refrigerator door of a parent who treasures his or her children definitely does not look like something to be found in Martha Stewart’s house.
But odd gifts aren’t useless ones, and when we make a commitment to use what we are given (“If it breaks, well, then I don’t have to worry about it anymore”) we are frequently surprised that the gifts aren’t so useless after all.
God’s gifts may seem odd, but they are never useless, and if we ask Him how to use what He has supplied, He will generously show us.
Being thankful is a mindset that we can cultivate — toward other human beings, toward life, and most especially, toward God, and as with any other habit, it improves with practice.
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