Gratitude is Not a Solo Sport

Depending on when you read this, you either will soon be devouring your turkey, dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie, or you’re slightly miserable from eating the aforementioned and most likely even additional casseroles, salads and desserts.

For some of you, this Thanksgiving may still look relatively normal. You have plans to get-together with immediate and extended family, and perhaps a few friends. For others, including myself, this Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new persona due to the pandemic. 

My folks are having Thanksgiving at their house . . . alone. My sister and her family will be celebrating at their new house in Fishers (we’re thrilled to welcome them from the Chicagoland area!), and Laura and I will share Thanksgiving with our kids and their significant others. Our plan is to head over to my folks’ house after our Thanksgiving meal (this is a surprise Mom and Dad, so skip reading the rest of the sentence), stand on their front lawn and beat the Christmas rush by singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” I’m sure their neighbors will be thrilled.

This isn’t the way we planned to spend Thanksgiving, but we’ve all been learning to pivot and change plans throughout 2020, haven’t we?

What lessons can we learn on how to give thanks when gratitude can easily be overtaken by grumpiness? And I’m asking that question, because, quite honestly, I’m feeling a little grumpy right now. Well, here are several suggestions.

First, gratitude is a choice. I don’t always feel like serving my wife and kids. I don’t always feel like joining in Sunday morning worship. I don’t always feel happy, happy, happy. But I can choose to be grateful in spite of COVID, political battles and an uncertain future. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one chose to come back to Jesus, “giving Him thanks” (Luke 17:16). I want to be that guy, don’t you?

Second, gratitude is transformational. Eugene Peterson once wrote that when he didn’t feel like lifting his hands in worship to God, he did it anyway. When he did, he said his heart began to change. It’s like that with gratitude. When you give thanks for what the Lord has provided, it takes your focus away from what you lack and places it right where it should be—on Him. King David wrote, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart” (Psalm 9:1). When he chose to give thanks, his heart was transformed, and his praise overshadowed his pain.

Third, gratitude is inspirational. Have you ever noticed that when someone around you is a Debbie-Downer, you begin to feel a little negative as well? Likewise, when you choose gratitude, it not only transforms your heart, it inspires others to choose gratitude as well. Quoting from King David once again, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples” (Psalm 57:9). Gratitude is not a solo sport. Grateful hearts inspire other hearts to do the same.

This Thanksgiving I encourage you to choose an attitude of gratitude and discover how your heart begins to change and how that inspires others to choose gratitude as well.