The signs are everywhere right now: “Grateful”, the word spelled out in fancy type, embellished with flowers, sparkles, or even gold leaf. I almost hit one with my grocery cart this morning, rounding the corner past a woman who, like me, had left her Thanksgiving shopping to the last minute. “Grateful … hmmpf!” she said, nodding at the sign. “What do I have to be grateful for?”
It’s often a struggle, this time of year. How do you “put on” thankfulness and joy or be grateful if it’s been a tough year, or you’re not feeling it inside? Or if things are going well — what is the best way to give thanks to the Lord?
The Psalms can help
Here’s some help from the Psalms, which are a wonderful school of prayer.
Psalm 100 starts out with a title. It’s “A Psalm for giving thanks,” according to verse 1, and it teaches us how. Here it is in the ESV-CE:
A Psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Here’s what strikes me about Psalm 100:
Gratefulness begins with action.
Look at all the imperatives: “Make a noise!” “Serve!” “Come into his presence!” “Know!” “Enter!” “Give thanks!” “Bless!” All of these are things we can start doing, regardless of what we feel inside. And the “how” matters. Most of these have to do with what comes out of our mouths. If that is complaints or criticism or anger, it will only reinforce those feelings in your heart. But once you start making a joyful noise and singing your way into God’s presence while giving thanks, your heart is bound to start to follow.
It helps to enter God’s presence.
The Psalm describes someone going to God’s temple, and the right attitude for approaching him there. Equally, if we deliberately enter the Lord’s presence, it can help us move hearts to praise. That might mean going to church or an adoration chapel, or withdrawing to a quiet place and putting yourself into his presence, asking him to join you there. Set aside your problems for a time and focus on God and his goodness, then intentionally offer your thanks.
God is enough reason to give thanks.
It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well. But when they’re not? “What do I have to be grateful for?” I hear the cry of the woman in the grocery store. Especially at those times, this Psalm helps. It puts our focus on God who is worthy of praise and thanks no matter what else is going on, before we even consider the blessings we can feel.
Meditate on Psalm 100 and notice all the things it says about God. That he made us and we are his. We belong to him as his people – this is a belonging of intimate knowledge and love. We are like the sheep of his pasture, each one precious to him. He is good. His love is steadfast (firm, unwavering). He is faithful now and always will be, forever.
Thanksgiving is a good time to count your blessings. But take some time, too, to give thanks for who God is. Allow the circumstances of your life to take second place, to dissolve before and within the love and care and glory that are God’s.
Make Psalm 100 your Thanksgiving prayer
Pray it again with me now … and may God fill your heart with joy as you bring him your gift of thanksgiving!
© 2020 Sarah Christmyer
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