Cultivating Thanksgiving

christian family stewardship christian parenting family parenting Nov 19, 2023
Cultivating Thanksgiving meal

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 


 

Introduction

The discipline of gratitude is an often neglected part of the Christian life, especially in the typical American household. We live in a materialistic era of instant gratification and keeping up with the Joneses, constantly surrounded by an abundance that surpasses any civilization before us. And yet, one could also argue, we struggle with dissatisfaction and ingratitude more than any other generation.

As Christians, we are called to live lives of joy and thanksgiving in all circumstances because of the great kindness that God in Christ has shown us. This should be most evident in our homes, where the aroma of the Gospel should permeate the atmosphere of our daily rhythms. Thanksgiving cannot simply be an American holiday to the Christian; it is meant to be a way of living. We are called to praise God for His material generosity, and also His spiritual, relational, and experiential blessings as well. Like all things, gratitude is best “caught rather than taught.” Parents have the special responsibility to display the practice of thankfulness at home so that their children can go and do likewise.

 

In Good Times

When things are going well, it can be easy to forget that we are not the suppliers of our own happiness. God is the one who gives us all things, and it’s vital that we recognize His kindness in those times of great peace and prosperity. We do not “deserve” these things, rather they are gifts from our loving Father. They can be simple: sunshine, a light breeze, clean air, drinkable water. All of these things are easy to take for granted and yet, they are tremendous blessings if we stop and simply think about the joy they bring to us.

We should also praise God for things we would consider a big deal: a new baby, a promotion, a bonus, a clean bill of health, a family vacation, etc. Furthermore, true gratitude begets generosity. These undeserved blessings are gifts, and one reason we are given them is so that they can be used in service to others. Did you get a bonus? Consider setting aside a small amount to assist someone in need. Are you healthy? Perhaps you can find a way to use your hands to help a neighbor who is not.

 

In Hard Times

Thanking God in the midst of trials and suffering often requires a different perspective than comes naturally to us. When these things happen, it can be easy to assume that God must not care about our circumstances or be angry that He has allowed hardship into our lives. But we are still called to tell ourselves the truth, which is that God allows troubles into our lives and uses them to draw us closer to Himself. He is near to the brokenhearted.

When we go through times of difficulty, God often shows us His tender care in special ways: a sermon that seems to address our exact struggle, an unexpected card of encouragement from a friend, deep fellowship in prayer, and a church community that comes alongside to bear the burden. In all these things, God brings glory to Himself as we (and our fellow Christians) grow more into the image of Christ. It can sometimes be hard to see the blessings in trials, but we can trust that they are there. We may understand the reason for our sufferings one day, but we also may not. However, we can still know that God is good and that He is worthy of our trust.

Walking through challenges with Christ is part of the Christian life, and as parents, it will be a part of your parenting journey if it hasn’t been already. Sharing stories of God’s faithfulness in hard times is a testimony to your children about the trustworthiness of God and His faithfulness to His people. And when your children face challenges of their own, you can point them with joy to the reality that God is walking with them through it all.

 

In Our Home

When our kids were still very little, we started making efforts to thank God as a regular part of our family life in a few tangible ways. We hope these act as a jumping off point for you as you think of similar ways to incorporate the practice of gratitude.

First, we thank God during our daily prayers: during family worship, at meals, and at bedtime. During dinner, we often have our Family Huddle and each family member shares something that they are thankful for. We also try to make sure that we write thank you notes when we receive gifts. And when we travel internationally for Volunteer Trips, the differences between our lives and the people we are serving open our eyes to God’s blessings in special ways (the provision of clean water, sanitation, air conditioning, electricity, etc.).

 

Conclusion

In the home of the Christian family, a spirit of humble and joyful thankfulness should be our goal. No matter how perfect things seem to be or how dire they get, we are commanded to be grateful. Making the practice of thanking God for His kindness and blessings is a wonderful way to shepherd your heart and mind in obedience, and show your children this beautiful reality of the Christian life. May we heed the words of the apostle Paul to the Colossians when he said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

 

Key Points

  • When blessings come our way, we must remember who they come from and thank God for His blessings.
  • When trials arise, remember that God will use them for His glory. We can be thankful in these situations as well.
  • Practicing thankfulness in your home can build a culture of gratitude that you can pass on as a legacy to your children.

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