Thanksgiving: The Power and Necessity of Gratitude


This is my first post for this re-purposed blog, and Thanksgiving Day is certainly an appropriate day on which to do it. I say re-purposed because I initially focused on the intersection of Christ and culture, something that is still near and dear to my heart. But about a year and a half ago I decided to write a book, and my orientation changed, which is reflected in the title of this blog and the name of my book.

The thing I am most grateful for in my life, second only to my salvation through Jesus Christ, is my wife and kids. They are the only dream in my life that has ever come true. I’ve always been a big thinker, but all those big thoughts over the last 30 plus years have crashed on the shoals of reality before could ever got to shore. Not so Sarah, Gabrielle, Adam, and Dominic.

They were only an inchoate* dream in August of 1986 when I hopped in my little white Toyota Corolla with my brother and a friend to drive across country. I was off to attend seminary in Philadelphia. The very last thing I would find in seminary, surely, was a wife. How grateful I am that I was wrong! Thirty years in the rear-view mirror would have been hard to fathom then, but is almost as unfathomable to look back on now. My niece found these napkins that were prominently displayed at my sister’s recent 60th birthday party:


And who on the north side of 40 or 50 cannot relate!

All these years God has been teaching and molding and slapping me around. One of the most powerful and necessary concepts he’s taught me is gratitude. As a country we focus on it once a year, which reflects the greatness of America, but as Christians gratitude is a daily necessity, in fact a requirement. We are commanded in Scripture to,

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Some might think a command to give thanks is a bit strange. What if I don’t feel thankful. That’s the nice thing about a biblically grounded gratitude: it has nothing to do with how we feel. This is a lesson I’ve driven into my kids since birth. We can be truly grateful (no phony, “Don’t worry, be happy” in a Christian realism) for many reasons, but here are a few our children get:

  1. We are commanded to give thanks because the character and provision of God demands it. The Apostle Paul says, God gives all humanity life and breath and everything else. Pretty comprehensive.
  2. Gratitude is possible because we depend on God’s definition of things, not our own. Being finite, limited, and ignorant, it’s best to leave the defining to God. When things don’t go our way, as they rarely do, trust him.
  3. God loved us in Christ by dying for us, and we are promised that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All things are not good, but God works them all to our good.

There are many more reasons, but these three alone will inoculate you and your kids to self-pity and the victimhood temptation so central to the sinful, human heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!


* Please make it a habit, as I often preach to my kids, to look up words you are not familiar with. Inchoate is not one you see every day. I’ll help you out on this one: just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary.