The Transformative Benefits of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day is a vital reminder. Gratitude is an attitude we need always, but it is far too easy to forget. Sincere gratitude to God and to others should be a regular habit. It should be ingrained in our thinking and in our hearts. This only happens if we deliberately set ourselves to it.
How to do it? One great help is to consider the extraordinary example of King David. Facing the heavy duties and pressures of a monarch, often experiencing profound trial, this “man after God’s own heart” continually made time to compose psalms—love songs praising and thanking God. He deliberately set himself to it. And God preserved those efforts for our benefit.
In his book The New Throne of David, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry extols David’s example. “David continually praised and thanked God!” he writes. “That reflects very spiritual thinking. … A man after God’s own heart builds his life around praising and thanking God!” (emphasis added throughout).
This is an amazing statement. If you build your life around praise and thanks, it will transform your thinking, making you happier, more joyful, more generous—more a person after God’s own heart.
The Trap of Prosperity
We in the Western world live in a Promised Land of blessings. Look back at what God, through Moses, told our ancestors how to prepare to enter their Promised Land:
“When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Moses knew human nature. We are naturally unthankful. Particularly when you’ve eaten and feel satisfied, you must always remember to bless—to kneel, to praise, to thank—God, whether you feel like it or not. when God gives you something, you need to thank Him.
“Virtually nothing is as significant to a good life as gratitude,” commentator Dennis Prager writes. “Gratitude is the mother of both happiness and goodness. The ungrateful can be neither happy nor good. All happy people and all good people are grateful people. Anything that undermines gratitude undermines happiness and goodness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as taking something or someone for granted” (The Rational Bible). This is why it’s important to pray and give thanks when we eat.
Moses continued: “Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God …” (verses 12-14). The greater our blessings and prosperity, the more we tend to forget God—even to take credit for the blessings God has given us (verse 17).
In the Civil War, America suffered shocking curses. Yet it was in the midst of that holocaust, on Oct. 3, 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation, itemizing the nation’s blessings. He wrote: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.”
“But we have forgotten God,” he continued. “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
Self-sufficiency and pride are opposite the thankfulness we need. Yet this is our national and our individual tendency.
Regarding Lincoln’s proclamation, theTrumpet.com managing editor Brad Macdonald wrote, “Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed not to celebrate the solving of a crisis, but to help solve the crisis. How does expressing gratitude solve problems? It does not directly put more soldiers on the battlefield or more money in the bank. It doesn’t cause depression to vanish or suddenly heal family division. But showing sincere, detailed gratitude to God changes something much more important: the mind and attitude.”
This is why God commands, “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth …” (verse 18).
Always remember this law. Never take credit for work God has done. Always credit God for successes and blessings.
Why is human nature so prone to the spiritual sin of ingratitude? Because human nature is influenced by the “god of this world,” Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4).
God gave Lucifer everything: life, capability, talent, education, opportunities, leadership, honor. Yet this mighty angel took those blessings for granted. He is the originator of the attitude that ignores what God gives.
Had Lucifer been thankful, he never would have tried to usurp God’s throne (Isaiah 14:12-14). But he grew dissatisfied and discontented. He spread that attitude to other angels. Then he spread it to the first human beings. And those beings chose self-sufficiency and pride, and turned against God. They made the same choice Lucifer made.
Lucifer, now Satan, stirs up that same spirit in this world: ingratitude, complaining, dissatisfaction. That is Satan’s nature.
God’s nature is the opposite. Jesus Christ continually thanked His Father. He had a wonderful attitude of gratitude.
Dissatisfaction and complaining make you miserable, like Satan. Gratitude makes you happy.
A 2018 Villanova University study surveyed a group of 12-to-17-year-olds about their attitudes toward materialism and thankfulness. They then split them into two groups and told them to keep a journal every day for a few weeks. One group was told to record the activities of the day; the other, to record what they were thankful for. In the end, the youths answered another survey and were given ten $1 bills and told they could keep all the money or donate some to charity.
The teens who simply recorded their activities had no change in thankfulness or materialism. Those who kept gratitude journals, however, were notably more grateful and less materialistic, and they gave away two thirds of their earnings. Just focusing on what they were thankful for made them more thankful, happier and more generous.
If you want happy children, teach them to be thankful children. If you want giving children, train them to be grateful children. Just as God does with His children.
“If you want to overcome depression or negativity, praise and thank God for your blessings!” Stephen Flurry wrote in an article reporting on this study. “Fill your mind with God’s goodness, and there will be no room for complaining or discontentment.”
Jesus Christ taught a powerful lesson in gratitude. Passing through a village, He saw 10 lepers. They cried out to Him and asked for healing. He instructed them to present themselves to the priests, and as they went, they were healed. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).
This man had a beautiful attitude. He fell on his face in humility. There is a close connection between thanksgiving and humility. Proper gratitude produces humility. And we need humility to really know God and receive blessings from Him.
“So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’” (verses 17-18; New King James Version). Only 1 in 10! This shows how unthankful we tend to be.
When you are unthankful, you really aren’t seeing God. Thanksgiving helps you see God more clearly. It puts your mind onto Him and all His blessings. It helps you recognize His touches in your daily life.
Give Thanks in Everything
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thank God no matter what happens. When you are on the mountaintop and in the sunlight—and when you are in the pain and the muck and the shadow of a trial. There is never a time not to give thanks.
In fact, it is when we are suffering that it is most important to thank God.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely advised. He then emphasized: “And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
How to do it? For help, read the Psalms. These authors thought deeply on all they had to thank God for. They can lead you as you seek to do the same.
So many of the psalms were written in trial, in danger, in suffering. David wrote psalms when he was in the wild, running for his life. He made many requests for deliverance, but even these are conspicuously intermingled with thanks and praise. Encircled by troubles, he wrote and played and sang thanks to God. Surely his guards and officers were at times bewildered: Shouldn’t he focus on strategizing to save himself and us? But when David was discouraged, threatened, imperiled, he instead set his heart on God.
We likewise must work to deliberately set our minds and hearts on giving thanks.
Read, study, meditate and journal these psalms. Pray them. Be detailed, thorough and heartfelt. Here are some examples of wonderful thanksgiving you may find particularly worthy of study this week:
- Psalm 100: Enter God’s presence with wholehearted thanks
- Psalm 116: Thanks for answered prayer
- Psalm 30: Gratitude for receiving forgiveness from God
- Psalm 136: Give thanks for God’s never-ending mercy
- Psalm 107: Give thanks for deliverance and freedom
- Psalm 75: Gratitude for God’s judgment against the wicked
- Psalm 103: Thank God for all His benefits
- Psalm 92: Give thanks on the weekly Sabbath
- Psalm 148: Join everyone and everything in the universe in praising God!
Why does God command praise and thanks? Deryle Hope answered this question in Royal Vision, the Trumpet’s companion Christian-living magazine: “Because genuinely thanking and praising God has a transformative effect on us. Being grateful requires humility. It requires recognizing what has been given to us by God, what we could never have done for ourselves. So it puts us in a humble and contrite mindset. It moves us in the opposite direction of vanity and selfishness. Praising and thanking God puts us in a humble and repentant attitude. And being contrite and humble are two important qualities we must possess as God works through His Spirit to transform our evil nature into the perfect character of God.
“God, in His supreme love for us, wants us to thank and praise Him so our thinking will align with His—so we can become more like Him” (November-December 2020; click here if you are interested in a free subscription).
Yes, thanking and praising God can transform our thinking just as it did David’s. “When you praise and thank God continually, do you realize how converted that makes you?” Gerald Flurry writes in The New Throne of David. “Just thinking normally, you won’t continually thank and praise God; it is not a natural way to think. But if we are to be men and women after God’s own heart, we must think in a way that is very unnatural! [David] was not a natural-minded man. He was a man after God’s own heart. He wanted to think and act like God in every way. And the better he knew God, the more he praised Him. That is being God-centered! …
“These are two of the great building blocks to show how David was a man after God’s own heart. These two doctrines—praising and thanking God—are at the heart and core of being God-centered. If we all follow in David’s footsteps in this way, this thinking will fill our lives!”
Fill your life with praise and thanksgiving. Use this as a tool to become happier, more joyful, more generous, more spiritual, more God-centered, more loving—and to become a person after God’s own heart.