As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we’re dedicating all of the November Fridays on the blog to re-sharing articles from the past that focus on gratitude and giving thanks.
A few weeks back, I was teaching a young people’s Sunday School class, and the topic was thanksgiving.
While preparing, I read 1 Thes. 5:18, “In every thing, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
“Wow!” I thought. How many times have I wondered, “What is God’s will for my life?” I think there are many answers to that question, but one of those answers is right there in 1 Thessalonians! I’m supposed to give thanks in all things.
I also read in Alma 34:38, “that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” I was so impressed by this. Live in thanksgiving daily. It’s easy to be thankful when I’m sitting around a table stuffed with food looking at the faces of people who love me. It’s much harder to be thankful when life sucker punches me. But it’s God’s will that I give thanks regardless of what’s going on.
So, then I asked myself, “Why is gratitude so important?”
I think gratitude is important because it takes the focus off us and puts it on God. I told this to the class when I was teaching, and someone replied, “Yeah, if we’re building up God when we give thanks, then we’re essentially building up the evil one when we complain.” I’d never thought of it that way before!
So, the class began to discuss why it’s so easy to complain. We named the epic complainers in scripture, Laman and Lemuel ranking near the top of our list. I asked, “What does complaining accomplish?” We couldn’t think of one good thing. I asked, “Why do we complain?” We came up with a laundry list of reasons. We complain when our expectations aren’t met, when we have to wait, when we’re disappointed, when we’re just in a bad mood.
It’s really tempting to complain when things are going wrong. But temptations don’t stop when things are going right. When something good happens in life, what am I tempted to do? I’m tempted to take all the credit for myself. When my boss compliments me or my dinner is delicious (for once!), I swing my arm around and give myself a huge pat on the back. And I’m tempted to forget the Lord.
That’s why Psalm 116:17 and Hebrews 13:15 call it a “sacrifice” of praise. When I sacrifice the credit and give it back to God, I’m pleasing Him. The fruit of my lips is fresh and good — not rotten.
In our class, we discussed a few tips for living in thanksgiving daily. Here’s what we came up with:
No matter what you do (big or small), do it in God’s name, and thank Him for helping you. (Colossians 3:17)
Don’t worry. Worry stifles praise. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, let’s thank God for what we do have. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Sometimes it’s possible to joke a little too much. When we thank God, we need to lay off the levity and be sincere. (Ephesians 5:3-4)
Don’t focus on someone else’s imperfections. Eat the meat and spit out the bones, and focus on what God wants from you. (Mormon 9:31)
I pray God lets me (and you!) live in thanksgiving each and every day.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.