Did your mom ever poke you and force you to say "thank you" when someone showed kindness to you or did something for you? It's polite and respectful to express gratitude to others. Likewise, God wants us to learn how to be thankful for what He has given and done for us. It is impossible to truly worship God without giving Him thanks for His goodness and the goodness He grants to us.
The Bible is clear that we should practice giving thanks to God regularly, showing Him our gratitude for all He does for us, and acknowledging that He provides everything we need for our lives (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
There are lots of biblical reasons to give thanks to God: "His love endures forever" (Psalm 136:3), "He is good" (Psalm 118:29), and "His mercy is everlasting" (Psalm 100:5). He gave you your first breath, and He'll give you your last before He brings you into an eternity of joy in Heaven. Every good thing that has ever happened to you or will happen in your future is gift from the Creator of the Universe (James 1:17).
We human beings are sinful creatures prone to selfishness, covetousness, and entitlement. We tend to look at the greener grass over the fence or at the sparkly things in others' hands. When we don't get what we want, we can become bitter, angry, and envious. Acknowledging God's provision for YOU helps put those negative feelings aside. It's hard to be both grateful AND bitter at the same time.
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all." —Matthew 6:31-32
In addition to thanking God for the big things and what we ask for, we can thank God for the things that we may take for granted—a warm home, food to eat, people who care about you, even your furry, four-legged friend. These are all gifts from God that are for YOU (Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Matthew 7:11).
"In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." —1 Thessalonians 5:18
Even when life is throwing unpleasant things at us and we aren't super thrilled, we should still aim to seek gratitude for that too. Why? Because we can trust that God is working in us through those not-so-great circumstances (James 1:2-4). God is sovereign, and nothing happens without His allowance (Daniel 4:35; Psalm 115:3; Psalm 135:6). We're not thanking Him that bad things are happening, but rather that He is sustaining us, giving us strength to endure, and growing our faith through it (James 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
"We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." —Romans 8:28
If we aren't in the practice of showing thankfulness, we become arrogant and selfish, thinking that we're entitled to or deserving of good things. We may begin to think we don't need anyone else (least of all God) to achieve personal greatness and success. We start to live inside our heads, thinking we are self-sufficient. But the base reality is that the only reason you survive into the next minute of life is because God allows it.
We're not saying that you shouldn't ever feel ungrateful or that it's bad to be frustrated and hurt or that it is a sin to feel any of this. Repeat: it is NOT A SIN to have emotions. We will not always feel thankful for our circumstances. Some days will be easier than others, but if we can work toward having a thankful heart toward God, we can come closer to discovering godly joy in the midst of suffering (Romans 5:3-5). We can grieve the loss of a loved one, a job, a friend, and still be thankful. We can hurt and still be thankful. We can be angry at sin and still be thankful toward God. This is what is called a "sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15).
Giving thanks to God keeps our hearts open to Him, inviting Him into our pain while keeping a godly perspective. Being thankful to God saves us from a slew of hurtful emotions and attitudes that will get in the way of experiencing the peace God desires most for you (Philippians 4:6-7).
Practice giving thanks to God regularly, showing Him gratitude for all He does for us, and acknowledging that He provides everything we need (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even when life is tough, we can be thankful that He sustains us, gives us strength to endure, and grows our faith through it (James 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9). To live without gratitude toward God is to allow selfishness, covetousness, and entitlement to take root in our hearts. Giving thanks to God keeps our hearts open to Him, inviting Him into our pain while keeping a godly perspective (Philippians 4:6-7).
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org and loves to write novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.