It’s more than turkey and pumpkin pie, or awkward family situations. Those who practice Thanksgiving on a daily basis find that the practice of intentionally “giving thanks” to God and others impacts their life in incredible ways.
Why does Thanksgiving make such a difference? Here are four ways that an intentional focus on thanksgiving can make a difference in your life. Hopefully these truths will help you see the importance of giving thanks and make it a priority!
1. Closer to Others
Thanksgiving brings you closer to others – In the life of Paul, we see this example of relational warmth that comes in the form of thanksgiving. You can see this example in Ephesians 1:16 —
“ I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”
or in 2 Thessalonians 1:3–
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
Even when he was writing a letter that was critical, so often Paul modeled a thankful attitude towards those he was addressing. What difference would it make in marriages if spouses would take the time to say thank you more often rather than criticizing their spouse for the disappointments they are facing. How would parent/child relationships improve if children were grateful to what their parents can provide, more than entitled to what they think they deserve, and vice versa.
Relational warmth is developed through a spirit of gratitude, but a critical spirit always results in sour dynamics. Every relationship has both good and bad elements to it, when we focus on having gratitude for the good, it changes the way we see people, and it changes the way we relate.
Key Question: How would it transform your relationships if you chose to lay down your criticism and focus solely on thanksgiving to God and others?
2. Reflects Humility
Thanksgiving reflects humility, which brings the favor of God.
Consider James 4:6–
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
A few verses later in James 4:10 we are reminded to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” It takes humility to thank God and others for the blessing that they bring into our lives. It takes faith to believe that “giving thanks” is warranted when the actions of God or others feel like a hardship to us.
However, we can always find a reason to thank God in the midst of every trial, even if it is as simple as the assurance of relief for eternal life. Further, every trial is an opportunity to grow in what is most important to God, our increasing maturity and willingness to join him in his mission of bringing restoration to a broken world.
Refusing to give thanks is ultimately a statement of pride, either I deserve all the good that I am receiving because I am a good person, or I don’t deserve this treatment and I refuse to thank God for my trials. When we are humble, our relationships are transformed
Key Question: How would it transform your relationships if others encountered you as full of humility and a willingness to listen?
3. An Act of Worship
Thanksgiving is an act of worship, which brings me closer to God.
Romans 1:21–23: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
It’s an interesting connection, between thanksgiving and idolatry. Those who did not thank God spiraled into foolish and futile lifestyles where they worship creation rather than the creator. Worshipping idols is about putting anything before God, whether that be food, substances, sex, power, respect, self-worth or money.
When we fail to give thanks to God, we get dissatisfied and seek satisfaction in the created rather than the creator. Choosing to give thanks to God allows my focus to be on the creator and how he can satisfy the longings of our heart. Often times when we are caught in the trap of self-centered sinfulness, we have lost sight of thanking God and realizing what he has done for us. In our relationships, we are often looking to others to meet a need they may not be able to meet.
Drawing near to God allows me to experience something greater in seeing that God can meet my needs and in releasing others from my demand to get from them what I think I need.
Key Question: How would it transform your relationships if others began to grow in their trust with you because you consistently seek to serve them rather than seek from them?
4. Focuses Your Thinking
Thanksgiving focuses my thinking, so negativity doesn’t distract my thinking. Philippians 4:6-7 says,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we are not in a mode of giving thanks regularly, our thinking constantly goes negative. Those who follow Christ do not have to be doomed to anxiety because he cares about us in the midst of our anxiousness. We go to him with a grateful heart, for we know that he is kind and good to answer our request in the way that is best for us.
When we focus on the powerful care of God, our heart and mind will grow in thankfulness and peace. But when we allow our anxieties to run unchecked, we focus on what is earthly and natural. It feels natural to do this, but God ultimately desires for us to come to him with our anxieties and seek relief from him and to follow him despite our uncomfortable feelings. Negative and anxious thoughts tempt us to negative thinking rather that courageous faith.
Key Question: How would it transform your relationships, if your anxious thoughts were minimized and your thoughts of gratitude were maximized?
Hopefully this list was an encouragement to you! Take some time to consider the importance of Thanksgiving in your relationships!