Self Care: Give Thanks to God

Sunset lights up the trees along the path through the forest across Tillamook Head along the north Oregon coast. Photo by Thomas Robinson

One of 30 Ways to Practice Self-Care is to Give thanks to God. Be grateful for daily blessings. Reflect on the good gifts God has given you. Take a few minutes to think about the small pleasures that are still part of your daily life, such as seeing sunset light on trees in a forest near your home.

Paul writes of this in his first letter to the Thessalonian church (1 Thes. 5:18):

En panti, euxaristeite! In everything give thanks!

Paul encourages us to learn the daily habit of giving thanks “in everything,” not just when we feel like it. The Bible asks us to be generous in our gratitude, to train our hearts to express thanks, even when we do not feel grateful.

The Greek word for giving thanks is EUCHARISTEITE. Eu is the Greek word for “good.” Charis is the Greek word for “gift.” We respond to receiving a good gift with a heart of thanks, with gratitude. This word is expressed in the imperative mood in 1 Thes 5:18. Paul is commanding us to give thanks, no matter the situation, in every situation of life. Of course the word for giving thanks, eucharist, also is the word we use sometimes for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, for at that original supper, Jesus gave thanks while breaking bread. At the Table of the Lord, we too give thanks for Christ’s gift of his body broken, and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. We receive the sacrament of the Eucharist as a way of entering into a life of thanksgiving.

Give thanks over and over, all over the place. We tend to be overly selective in where we offer our gratitude, attaching our heart’s gratitude only to those places where we feel good, have been helped, where it is about me getting something.

Giving Thanks IN everything, doesn’t mean we are glad FOR everything. The preposition is en (in), NOT eis (for). This may seem like a small difference, but it is a very significant difference. How can we give thanks for evil, death, or disease. I don’t believe we are asked to be grateful FOR these. But in the face of such troubles, we have the courage in Christ to give thanks to God, even IN these situations.

Here are a few of my favorite gratitude quotations.

G.K. Chesterton, the British Christian journalist from the early 20th century wrote, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

Ambrose of Milan declared, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”

Albert Schweitzer wrote, “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”

George Herbert put gratitude into a prayer poem:

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

One of the simplest ways to express thanks is to hand write a thank you card to someone. Try doing this weekly for a few month and see what happens in your spirit. To make this action easier, I’ve found it helpful to have a pack of simple, natural, blank-inside, note cards ready in a drawer in my home with a pen and stamps nearby. When someone does something to help you, or when you notice someone making the world a better place, when you arrive at home that day, sit down and pen a thank you note to that person. Tell them in a few sentences that you are thankful for their life, for their gift, for their generous way of living. Put a stamp on it, address it, and drop it off in a mailbox the next day. If you do not have that person’s address, hand deliver it to them. Go out of your way to find that person, as Jesus did on occasion, to give them the return gift of your gratitude.

You will discover that you are the one who has been blessed, and your soul has been cared for by the simple act of giving thanks in a written form.