The Lord, through the Apostle Paul, teaches us that that thanksgiving is the mark of a mature Christian: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7).
So then, how should our cultural Thanksgiving holiday develop maturity in us and the corresponding gratitude of heart? We know that making a mere statement of thanksgiving – whether as a Tweet, Facebook post, or at the Thanksgiving Day table – does not equate to maturity. Rather, biblical thanksgiving flows as we grow and develop by recognizing the many sorrows and joys, gains and losses, defeats and victories of life and still praise the Lord through them.
It’s a great thing to simply rejoice in the obvious expressions of God’s love for us. But it’s been a really hard year for many people. So, on this Thanksgiving Day, perhaps it is also good to begin by thinking about the various low points in our lives over the last year or even at present, to meditate deeply on ways in which the Lord has shown himself faithful, and then to see his reasons for our thanks and praise. It’s pretty hard not to mature when we begin to process the events of life God’s way, and it’s equally impossible to walk away without lifting our voices to God with thanksgiving.
If you need help in how to get started with the process, the Psalms in particular lead us in this way. They express a wide range of emotions and admit our weaknesses. And then, these Psalms lead us to praise and thanks – parallel ideas in the Bible.
Michael LeFebvre notes in his book Singing the Songs of Jesus: “The psalms are designed to help people who don’t always feel like praising begin by meditating on the mess the world is in, and only through a full and robust process of meditation, to come out with praise… Typically each of the Psalms involve some kind of declaration of truth about God, which is then pondered and exercised in a highly emotive manner designed to draw our hearts and experiences into meditation, resulting then in a maturing of our faith in fidelity in the praise” (p. 97, 100).
Here are a few examples of how specific Psalms lead us from our frailty and need to being rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith which will result in overflowing gratitude and praise. Take a few minutes to read or sing one or more. Reflect on God’s work in your life, and let him lead your heart to maturity and thanksgiving:
- We confess our sins – leading to thanksgiving (Psalms 51).
- We review our history – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 78).
- We wrestle with our doubts – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 73).
- We remember victories over our enemies – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 118).
- We lament our hurts and losses – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 6).
- We pronounce imprecations upon God’s and our enemies – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 7).
- We recall the work of God in our salvation – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 22).
- We rejoice in the perfect character of God – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 99).
- We claim God’s covenant promises – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 16).
- We celebrate God’s community – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 133).
- We embrace the light of God’s word in the midst of our darkness – leading to thanksgiving (Psalm 119).