It is almost half a year from the Thanksgiving holiday, but for some reason the importance of giving thanks has been on my mind lately. In the context of discussing being filled with the Holy Spirit Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:19-20, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Laurie and I have learned in our marriage to steer clear of the words “always” and “never” (as in “you always…” or “you never…”). They are never…er, well…usually not true and typically add fuel to the fire of conflict. Yet Paul boldly and brashly used the words “always” and “for everything” in his command. The Spirit-filled person is a grateful person. The Spirit-filled person gives thanks to God always no matter what may be happening in his or her life.
A third thing about giving thanks that is important is that it is essential for having a joyful spirit. The alternative to giving thanks is to have a demanding spirit that will never be content. Our choice ultimately will boil down to discontentment and complaint on the one hand or constant gratitude on the other. Gratitude will result in a positive, hopeful and joyful frame of mind and heart. The alternative always leads to restlessness, resentment and unhappiness. Finally, there is this thought from John Ortberg in his book, Soul Keeping: “more gratitude will not come from acquiring more things or more experiences.” We fool ourselves when we think if we just had more, if we just had better circumstances, then we would be thankful. The truth is, if we are not thankful today no matter what our situation, we will not be consistently thankful tomorrow, even if our situation improves. Thanksgiving is rooted in trust in our God and in gratitude for the eternal blessings he has given us. If we think we must have more to give thanks more we will likely find that once we have more, we will not be content but will just want more of something else. Gratitude is a quality of the heart, not a product of circumstances.
If we want to experience more of the joy of the Lord, one of the best things we can do is to exercise the discipline of gratitude. We can choose to “always” give thanks “for everything.” That’s what will bring light to our hearts.