Here’s a sample of a few of the trials, temptations, or longings we wrestle with as humans and how giving thanks throws down a rope and offers a way out.
Whether it’s discontentment with where God has you or disappointment over how things have turned out, these are not unique temptations to our day and age. But with the affluence around us and social media platforms displaying a highlight reel of everyone else’s life, it throws more gas on the fire. How are they going on another vacation? Look how obedient and well-behaved their kids are. A quick scroll through social media can leave us stuck in the pit of discontentment. As life progresses and seasons change, we might feel the gap between where we thought we’d be and how life is in the ordinary humdrum of “adulting.”
If discontentment has its list of disappointments we feel, create a separate list of what we believe to be true by faith. Thank God for the blessings we do have, for His good and wise plan, His timing in releasing His grace and gifts, and His faithfulness in every season. Rather than listening to our heart tell us what God has withheld, we talk back. We remind our forgetful self of all God’s provision, care, blessings, promises, and mercies. We will always have reasons to grumble, but we have even more reasons to be grateful. When in doubt, list them out.
Whether it’s lust—rooted in discontentment—or jealousy, listen to Paul’s encouragement to choose gratitude: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:3–4).
By giving thanks, we choose contentment in God’s good gifts to us and wise plan for us.
A heart of praise chokes out room for sin to grow. By giving thanks, we choose contentment in God’s good gifts to us and wise plan for us. When it’s lacking, other things opposed to God—such as lust, bitterness, or dissatisfaction—take their place. Thanksgiving pushes back the wave of discontentment from earthly troubles with the larger reality of blessings in Christ. Gratitude grows us and guards us.
Gritty gratitude gives thanks in all circumstances because it depends on God’s faithfulness and goodness, not on things being easy or having what we want. Most of us wait to give thanks until we have blessings in hand or think things have settled down, but the Bible puts thankful trust first. Don’t wait to give thanks until you’re happy about circumstances. Don’t dwell on what’s missing in your life. Set your mind on God and give thanks for all He is and has done. Joy follows gratitude.
Every week, if not every day, discouragements deflate us like a punctured ball. We feel the weight of our weakness. The last thing you need is someone coaching you to suck it up, try harder, pull yourself together, and turn things around. And yet, that’s often the message given to us. But trusting in our own strength eventually burns us out. Putting on a happy face and gritting our teeth as we push through doesn’t lighten the load or pick us up off the ground.
Where does David go when discouraged? When his soul bottoms out and sorrow takes over, how does he resist the darkness and hold on to light? He gives thanks. He thanks God not only after difficulties, but he does so in the midst of them. Psalm 28 is a cry for strength when David feels weak. He sees himself caught in a pit. It seems like his enemies gained the upper hand. Imminent defeat hovers above him like an oppressive cloud. But he doesn’t stay there. He falls back on his two supports: prayer and thanksgiving. He asks God for victory but also for strength to keep going. Even as he waits, he preaches truth to his soul by assuring himself God hears his prayers. God will not abandon him.
Thanksgiving knits our heart to God through the specifics we have to thank Him for.
David gives thanks before deliverance, even when fear and trembling dominate his emotions. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (Ps. 28:7). His circumstances haven’t changed. There’s no blessing received or desired outcome guaranteed. Tomorrow’s situation might be the same as today. But David gives thanks to God. God will strengthen and sustain him. God hasn’t abandoned him but will continue to help him.
Whatever you’re walking through, God has not changed. He is still our helper and strength. By giving thanks for who He is, and reviving our weary soul by recalling God’s faithfulness, thanks leads the way to trust and trust leads the way to hope. God’s people push back the fears and sorrows pressing against us through thanksgiving (see Ps. 9; 30; 35:17–18, 27–28). As our gratitude list grows, so does our confidence in God’s commitment to us.
Maybe the hardest trial to endure is God’s absence. When it feels like God is present, we can endure anything. But when it appears like He has hidden the warmth of His face, even the smallest trials seem unbearable.
Thanksgiving isn’t only a defensive weapon helping us combat temptation or discouragement. Through thanksgiving we know, rest in, and worship God. Throughout the Bible, God’s people pursue intimacy with God by giving thanks.
A repeated line throughout the Psalms thanks God for His steadfast love. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 106:1; see also 100:5; 118:1; 136:1). We praise what we delight in, and thanksgiving slows us down to see and enjoy it all the more. David gives thanks to God for His goodness and love. The act of considering and thanking God warms his heart toward Him.
The enemy wants to leverage our spiritual wilderness to whisper lies about God’s character or purposes. When we give thanks, we counter his punches and say, “Not so fast.” Giving thanks stirs up the truth about who God is to combat the questions and fears sprouting in our heart. Reflecting on God leads to rejoicing in Him. Thanksgiving knits our heart to God through the specifics we have to thank Him for.
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...
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