COLUMN: Giving thanks and acts of praise

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November always evokes an awareness and inventory of thankfulness for me.

As I have reflected over my own attitudes and responses to various situations, the motives of my heart begin to be exposed. I find that discontent lurks, complaining rises to the surface easily, I can quickly form judgements, and patience goes out the window entirely.

What I have come to realize is that when these attitudes find a place to settle in and I don’t address them and instead become comfortable with them, that it greatly impacts my entire life. It will leech out into my relationships with those around me and it impacts my relationship with the Lord. Actually, it reveals my approach in my relationship with God.

Unintentionally, an approach of entitlement brings compromise to the righteous approach to my Lord and Savior that should be motivated by grace and I take him for granted, forgetting how incredibly majestic and awesome and holy that He is.

A quick look into the Scriptures has always been a valuable tool to reset my heart. God has richly woven this theme of thankfulness throughout the Bible. Interestingly enough, thankfulness seems unable to be separated from praise. Giving thanks is an act of praise, and praise is a response to thankfulness.

The Psalms clearly bring this expressive duo to our attention. A few of my favorites are Psalm 118:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” and Psalm 95:2, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

There are three elements that I have noticed that thankfulness and praise have in common. They are both mindful, expressive and felt. There is a conscious decision, a will to engage, an outward expression or response, and we feel it on an emotional level.

I know that often, in difficult seasons and undesirable left events, being thankful and giving praise can be as foreign and elusive as herding cats in a rainstorm. It doesn’t always come easily or naturally. I love how David gives himself a pep talk in the Psalms saying “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is with me.”

There are times when we don’t “feel” like being thankful but we can still choose, mindfully, to acknowledge the good in our lives. We have a choice. Our choice to give thanks and to praise God is not dictated by our emotional response to the situation. First, we choose to be thankful.

As we express that thankfulness and somehow demonstrate that through an action or response it impacts us internally. Something happens and our hearts shift as we align ourselves in right relationship with our God and our emotions are engaged with HIM, not just what’s happening around us.

It may not feel natural at first, but I promise it will be good. We will leave the cats to themselves.

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