Showing gratitude and being thankful is something that’s discussed among many groups of people. It especially becomes a hot topic around Thanksgiving. Not only is thankfulness discussed often in Scripture, but there are also many benefits to practicing gratitude. Let’s discuss the why and how of growing the practice of gratitude in our lives.
Practicing gratitude is important for everyone, including us as mothers. We often get caught up in the daily grind and start focusing on the negatives. How many more times do I have to tell them to…? Why is it such an ordeal to go anywhere? Is it bedtime yet? Instead of focusing on what’s not going well, let’s start focusing on the positives.
Why is practicing gratitude important?
When we get stuck in a pattern of complaining, we are only training our brains to look for the negative. We need to change that thought pattern. As we practice gratitude, we begin to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances, and we start focusing on others. We’re thankful for what we do have, and we start looking to God. As our focus shifts, we are reminded of the blessings we truly do have, and we slowly begin to focus less on ourselves and focus more on God and others.
Benefits of gratitude
Gratitude has physical, psychological, and social benefits such as decreasing our stress, giving us a positive outlook on life, and helping us feel more compassionate toward others. Being grateful helps us be happier and complain less…or not at all. Gratefulness reminds us of all God’s blessings. He is the giver of good gifts. Thankfulness reminds us to look for the positives, even in difficult circumstances. Practicing gratitude makes us more enjoyable for others to be around.
What Does God Say about being Grateful?
You may wonder if God has anything to say about gratitude when in fact the Bible is full of praise and thanksgiving. God is definitely not silent on the topic. Let’s look at some examples.
Philippians 4:6 reminds us to bring our requests to God with thanksgiving, and Colossians 2:7 tells us to be “abounding in thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving and gratefulness should be an important part of our life.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
Did you catch the above verse? Go back and read it again. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” We tend to have certain times we’ll think about what we’re thankful for, but often we’re complaining about minor inconveniences. We’re so spoiled today! Check out the next verse, which reminds us of where our gifts truly come from.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17
Psalms of Thanksgiving
In the Psalms, we can find so many scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude. I will just list out a few, but I challenge you to look up some more. Pick one and write it on a card for meditation and memorization, especially if you struggle with gratitude.
“I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.” Psalm 7:17
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30
God is magnified or lifted up with our thanksgiving. Here are other great Psalms full of praise and thanksgiving:
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:1-3
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
Psalm 100 may be a familiar psalm of praise and thanksgiving. I won’t put the whole thing here, but I especially love verses 4-5:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4,5
Reasons to be thankful to God
We have so many reasons to be thankful to God, and we can express gratitude to Him by thanking Him for all He has done for us. What are some things we can be grateful for?
- Salvation. It is only through Jesus’ atoning death on the cross that we have salvation. Without Him, we wouldn’t have the hope of forgiveness of sin.
- God’s love. God loves us more than we can even imagine. Because of His love, we can also love others.
- Prayer. How awesome is it that the God who created the whole world cares to listen to our prayers? He even tells us to do it and how we should do it. What an amazing privilege!
- The Bible. The Bible is God’s inspired Word to us. In it we learn who God is, how He works, and how we should live.
- Christian community. We are made to live in community and not solitary. We draw strength and encouragement by living in community and fellowship with other followers of Jesus.
- God’s character. We can be thankful for who God is by His very nature. He is holy, just, forgiving, trustworthy, and in control of all things (along with many other attributes).
- Family. God has gifted us with our parents, siblings, spouse, children, etc. Let’s thank Him for each of the precious people in our lives.
- Trials. Yes, I said trials. The thing is, we can truly trust that God is working even in our trials. God can work all things for our good, and give us the grace we need to get through our trials (see Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 12:9).
How do you Teach Kids Gratitude?
So, we’ve seen that there are many benefits to practicing and expressing gratitude and that God wants us to give thanksgiving and praise. Now you may be wondering how we not only grow in the practice of gratitude ourselves, but how do we teach our kids gratitude? Teaching our kids doesn’t have to be difficult. Check out these ideas:
- “Thank you.” Simply teach your children to say thank you when someone gives them something or says something kind to them.
- Model. As we express gratitude for miscellaneous things throughout the day, we are modeling gratitude to our children.
- Sharing. At dinnertime, take turns sharing at least one thing that you’re thankful for that day.
- Random acts of kindness. As a family, come up with some acts of kindness that you could do as you’re out and about or for your neighbors. This gets the focus off yourself and on others.
- Volunteer. As the above idea, volunteering helps change your focus, especially if those you’re serving are less fortunate than you. Food banks are one idea of where your family could serve.
- Gratitude pages. Check Pinterest for some simple gratitude printables to have your kids color and fill out. Older kids will probably prefer a regular journal.
How can we Practice Gratitude?
Some of the ideas listed above are great not only for teaching our children how to practice gratitude but are great for us as well. Listed below are some great resources and ideas for growing in the practice of gratitude in our own lives.
- Read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. In this book, Ann Voskamp tells about how she began writing down things she was thankful for, and what happened during the journey.
- Start a Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal is a great way to help you focus on looking for big and little things you are thankful for. Write them down and then go back and look over them from time to time.
- Try a 30-day Gratitude Challenge. The internet abounds with these. Many of these challenges are ideas to get you started on what you are thankful for in a certain category.
- Gratitude jar. Have your family write down the things they’re thankful for on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Every month or so, you can pull them out and read them together as a family.
Growing the practice of gratitude may not at first have seemed like a necessary thing, but I hope you now see the importance of expressing thankfulness for the many blessings that we truly do have. What verse spoke to you the most? What do you already do or plan to do to cultivate gratitude in your life and the lives of your family? Let me know below.
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