Practicing gratitude generally begins at an early age in western civilization. Teaching and training our children to express “thanks” to others, begins in the days when they are beginning to say words that we can understand. The training begins and carries on until our children develop this habit of expressing gratitude to others for their kindness. Gratitude begins as a habit that is learned. It is sustained and grows through intentional practice.
In the States, we have a national holiday each November to assist us in remembering to be thankful. A valued treasure for Christians and a boon to the rest of the population. We fondly remember the journey of the Pilgrims to this land in 1620 who were seeking to find a home where they would be able to worship God without persecution. God gave them success in their journey. A steep cost, however, was incurred that first winter as half of their party did not survive. And yet, God in His mercy provided an abundant harvest to their labors that next year. The Pilgrims responded with a time of celebration and thanksgiving to God for all that He had done. They celebrated with their neighbors, natives of the land.
The faith and practice of gratitude in the lives of the Pilgrims bestowed upon our nation a tremendous blessing. One that we celebrate as a nation. Their example is one to be imitated, not just in November each year, but continually throughout the year. Doing so does take some creativity and some initiative. How do we build this habit of gratitude into the web and weave of life?
The Lord has not left us without a place for ideas. He has given us His Word, the Bible. Earlier this year, He led me to discover Psalm 107 as if for the first time. To see things I had never seen before. The opening stanza provides the idea: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,…” ESV It’s an instruction for us regarding giving thanks. And we, the redeemed, are to specifically say it! Over and over and over again.
The Psalm goes on after that opening salvo to highlight the travails and troubles of His redeemed people who continually return to their own ways and forget to acknowledge God. This pattern takes place four times in the Psalm: verse 6, 13, 19 and 28. Each time they cry out to God, “Help!” And each time God delivers them from their trouble: v.7, 14, 20, 29-30. And then, God instructs his people as to how they should now respond in v. 8, 15, 21, 31. This instruction is repeated four times: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Four exclamation points! Amazing I could miss that pattern in reading through this Psalm for so many years. It was right there in front of me all the time.
Some years ago, my wife, Marian, encouraged our family to start a new practice from Psalm 136:1 which parallels Psalm 107:1. One person would say the first half of the verse and then the other person would state the second half of the verse. Similar to our practice at Easter when one person, says: “He is risen,” and the other responds with, “He is risen, indeed.” The practice has been an encouragement to our family and an ongoing reminder of God’s goodness to us and His ever enduring love for us. Perhaps you and your family could give it a try in the next month? As one who is redeemed, you will be following in the will of God and your family will be blessed. In addition, the last verse of Psalm 107 states that those who follow these things will be wise and that their understanding of His love will grow.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!” ESV
If you decide to try it, let me know how it goes. Thank you for your love and faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19