We just finished October and already I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving. My mom’s stuffing uses two sticks of butter, so it’s worth looking forward to for an entire month (and then there’s also her mashed potatoes and dessert!) But it’s not just the food and time with family that I’m thinking about. I’m hoping to spend the month preparing my heart for a feast of thanksgiving.
Scripture calls us to be a rejoicing people. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4) and exhorts the Colossians, “And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Before the hustle and bustle of travel, cooking, and time with family what are ways we can set our hearts, minds, and souls towards rejoicing?
Create Opportunities for Rejoicing
One of my friends helps to prepare her family by asking her children to write down one thing they are thankful for each day during the month of November. She stores them in a homemade turkey (however, if you are non-crafty like me a bowl or vase on the table will work just as well). At the end of the month, they pull the strips of paper back out and spend some time rejoicing in the ways the Lord worked in their family. Roommates, friends, or small groups could spend the month doing a similar sort of heart preparation.
Elisabeth Elliot noted:
The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source than his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul. It takes us out of the stuffiness of ourselves into the fresh breeze and sunlight of the will of God. The simple act of thanking Him is for most of us an abrupt change of activity, a break from work and worry, a move toward re-creation.
Whatever method we employ, it takes discipline and effort to create space in our schedules for actively giving thanks to God.
Sing Songs for Rejoicing
Paul directed the Colossians to sing psalms and hymns with thanksgiving. I know for myself, the best way to experience joy in my thanksgiving is to sing (although in my case, it’s best for this to be done with the music playing loudly… joyful noise is a good summary). Two songs are on repeat for me this month: My Heart is Full of Thankfulness by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Psalm 34 (Taste and See) by Shane and Shane. I’d love to add to my playlist, so send me your recommendations! Putting truth to music awakens the soul, allowing us to delight as we offer up thanksgiving to God.
Let the Word Guide Your Rejoicing
Another way we cultivate thanksgiving is to expand our understanding of the biblical reasons we have to rejoice. We are called to “rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thess. 5:16-17), but the Bible also directs us to specific reasons for rejoicing. We give thanks for God’s character, His gracious salvation, His people, the ways He works to bless us, and even in the sufferings we endure (knowing that His providence directs and protects all our days). Below, I’ve included verses for each of these categories. I hope to use these verses throughout the month to give words to my thanksgiving, joining with the saints throughout history in rejoicing. I also plan to use them with my children, in an effort to teach them Biblical reasons for thanksgiving.
Verses for Thanksgiving
God’s Character – What truths about God cause your heart to rejoice?
Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. – 1 Chronicles 29:10-13
It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” – 2 Chronicles 5:12-13
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:1-3
Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be held in awe above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
Ascribe to the LORD, O clans of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! – 1Chronicles 16:23-34
God’s Salvation – How have you seen His salvation?
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. – Luke 10:20
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. – Zechariah 9:9
Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day. – Psalm 96:1-2
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. – Revelation 7:9 -12
God’s Purpose in Suffering – What hardships can you offer up as a sacrifice of praise?
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:2-5
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. – Colossians 1:24-26
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. -1 Peter 4:13-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9
God’s People – For whom are you thankful?
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. – Philemon 4-7
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. – 2 Timothy 1:3-4
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. – Phil. 1:3-5
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. – Romans 1:8-12
God’s Blessings and Works – What ways has God worked in your life?
And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you. – Deut. 26:11
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him; sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! – 1 Chron. 16:8-10
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him. – Exodus 15:1-2
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:3-10
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thess. 5:16-18
As Ann Voskamp said so well, “To give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions. While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” May we be a people who prepare a different kind of feast this November: Thanksgiving everyday for everything.