4 Ways to Choose Giving Thanks

Dustin Crowe
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Here are four ways to choose giving thanks. Think of these as a map for gritty gratitude, charting a way forward when we feel lost or discouraged.

1. Rest in God’s Sovereign Plan

The basis of giving thanks isn’t gifts; it’s God. It’s not liking everything God gives us but trusting He knows best. God blesses us with many gifts. But God also allows trials and suffering for our good (1 Peter 1:6–9; 2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 3:10).

When nothing is stable, cling to God through His precious promises.

Truth anchors us in storms. You might not give thanks for the specific details of a trial, but you can thank God for who He is in it. God is not only the ultimate object of our thanksgiving; He’s the ultimate source. We “rejoice always” because we rest in God’s sovereign plan. No matter what, God is in control. God cares. He’s at work to do you good. He’s with you.

Rest in the one who reigns.

2. Cling to God’s Good Promises

God’s promises are gifts. Even when we can’t spot blessings around us, we turn to His promises. In most trials, there are many unknowns. There’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot to hold on to. But we can cling to God’s promises. Thanksgiving depends on God’s character, not His blessings. Because God is unchanging, His promises are firm. Because God is good, so are all His promises.

Suffering is not the final word in our suffering—hope is. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “For humanity, amid all its sorrows and sins, hope sings on. . . . Because our hope abides, our praise continues.”[1] Hope sings on. We find our voice for giving thanks in hope through God’s promises. Where our feet feel like slipping, these provide traction for us to take steps forward.

When nothing is stable, cling to God through His precious promises.

3. Look for God’s Evident Work

While we can give thanks even when we can’t yet see the sun through the fog, it does help when we find small reasons to give thanks. Start with low-hanging fruit. Look for where God’s work is clear. Spot blessings, however small or few, and say thanks. This shifts our mindset away from grumbling and toward gratitude.

The famous hymn “Count Your Blessings” offers this counsel:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.[2]

As we give thanks for blessings, it builds momentum. Gratitude grows. We perceive reasons to give thanks we might otherwise miss. During a trial, look for God’s work and give thanks where you can. As your heart feels tiny ripples of gratitude, ride them as the waves get bigger and bigger.

4. Trust in God’s Steadfast Love and Faithfulness (Even When You Don’t See It or Feel It)

There will be times where we don’t see the good in a situation. After most of the wilderness seasons I’ve endured, I can look back and see what God has done through them. But that doesn’t mean everything will be like this. Some things won’t make sense to us this side of heaven.

Giving thanks depends on trusting God to do good, not in seeing the good. This isn’t blind faith but trust built on God’s faithfulness. We trust in a good, loving, all-knowing, sovereign God. Sometimes a posture of thankfulness means saying, “God, I can’t see what You’re doing, and this feels hard. But I trust You. And I want to trust You. Help me. You are good, in control, with me, and at work. Thank You.”

We Can Give Thanks In All Circumstances

Maybe suffering or sorrow weighs you down today. It might tempt you to believe thanksgiving isn’t for you. But we know that can’t be the case because God tells us we can give thanks in all circumstances. Both the happy and the heartbroken can give thanks because God is constant in all circumstances. He is present and powerfully at work, whether seen or unseen. Turn to Him. Thank Him. Trust Him.

[1] Spurgeon, The Practice of Praise, 35.

[2] Johnson Oatman Jr., “Count Your Blessings,” 1897, accessed September 3, 2019, https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Count_Your_Blessings/.

For Further Reading:

The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks

by Dustin Crowe

The apostle Paul instructed the Philippians to be anxious in nothing and thankful in everything. And when he said everything—he meant...

book cover for The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks