I love fall! November always reminds me of the importance of being thankful, which can frankly, be hard for me. Sometimes I assume it must be easy for others to quickly compile their top 10 reasons for being grateful. But honestly, aside from the blessings of the people I love, I have to stop and think about my list. What am I thankful for? The fact that I need to process this, tells me that perhaps I need to work on the area of thankfulness in my life.
Always rejoicing, continually praying and being thankful in all circumstances, really? This doesn’t come naturally to us, does it? And yet we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians that this is God’s will for us. So how do we do this?
Rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness all work together to fuel each other.
Have you noticed that when you rejoice then it’s easier to pray and be thankful? When we take the time to pray and be still before God then rejoicing and gratitude seem to spring forth. The path to cultivating a thankful heart is in practicing all three commands.
Can you remember a time when you were thirsty but couldn’t get any water? I’ll never forget in junior college giving an oral presentation when suddenly my mouth was so dry I couldn’t get another word out. I never gave another presentation without a bottle of water by my side again.
When Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well he referred to himself as the living water.
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13)
We have the hope of eternal life by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also have his presence, the living water, available to us at all times. He is our sustenance.
The key to rejoicing is tapping into the source of joy— Jesus.
We can always find joy when we walk with him through our trials.
Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11
How do you pray continually? We do this by having a prayerful attitude throughout the day. We can pray frequently and talk to God all day as we focus our mind on him through conversational prayer. Ask him for guidance during the day as you are faced with decisions to make. Tell him your thoughts while you are driving. Pray for God to help you live for him. Ask God to show you any sin in your life that you may be unaware of.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm (139:23)
Be thankful in all circumstances
On Thanksgiving, my family usually shares what we are thankful for. I have always related thankfulness to being thankful for things. However, this verse isn’t saying to be thankful for all things but in all things. When hard times come we can be thankful in the sorrow because God is with us. He uses our trials to make us mature and complete.
When I was nineteen I was really sick and kept going to the doctor but was told that I was suffering from “a long flu.” It got to the point where I was bedridden and couldn’t even make it to the bathroom. In a desperate plea to get back to normal, I went to the doctor again. I had lost 14 pounds in two weeks. It turns out I had Salmonella. I was severely dehydrated— I couldn’t even walk. I remember laying in bed crying because I just wanted to get better. Then suddenly I felt an unexplainable peace and my tears just stopped. I immediately recalled this beautiful, old hymn:
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One, Give Thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
Let the weak say I am strong
Let the poor say I am rich
because of what the Lord has done, for us
Are you overwhelmed with your kids? In an argument with your husband? Struggling financially? Are you uncertain of your future and your health?
Cling to the Lord and pour out your heart to him in prayer. These are often our most tender moments with Jesus as we feel him minister to our hurting hearts.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2)
It’s easy to tell someone to just be thankful. I think that people truly want to have an attitude of gratitude but just don’t know how. It doesn’t just happen without some effort to focus our thoughts on God.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8)
Just as we till and prepare the land for the growth of crops, we must practice rejoicing and prayer in order to produce a harvest of thankfulness.