In the movie, “A League of Their Own,” Coach Jimmy Dugan explains to Dottie Hinson about the hardness of playing baseball. He says, “If baseball were easy, everyone would be doing it.”
The same is true with thanksgiving. If giving thanks were easy, a lot more people would be doing it. We’d have more joyful people in the world, more positive people in the world, and more helping people in the world, if it were easy to give thanks. But it’s not easy; in fact, it is VERY hard.
Just try it right now: give thanks for 15 things. After about the first 5 or 6, it starts getting hard. We run out of things to think about. Our minds are simply not geared to give thanks beyond a very surfacy level. And even if we can come up with 15 things to be thankful for, it is hard for our heart to go deep with it. As a result, our souls have difficulty getting to the place where we can operate out of a truly thankful state being.
Thankfully, our Lord knows the difficulty we have in giving thanks. And He always meets us right where we are. So a good place to start in engaging in thanksgiving is admitting to God how difficult it is and asking for His help. You might want to start with Psalm 40:13 where it says:
God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.
Or you might start with the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner.” And then ask for his gracious help in giving thanks to God.
Then be quiet for a moment. Still your heart, your soul and your mind. You will then find that the Lord will bring things to your mind: a memory, a thought, or maybe something totally random. But as you think about those things, there will be something that you are thankful for.
It may be trite or common, it might be deep or profound. But start with that thought. Give thanks to God for whatever it might be.
Then ask the Lord why He brought that particular thought to mind. There might be a certain aspect of that memory or thought that you hadn’t thought of before.
For example, the other day I was driving and I got stuck at a red light (if you remember my blog from 10/08/13, “A Signal to Give Thanks,” I’ve started a habit to give thanks for three things whenever I catch a red light – as a way to not be frustrated with traffic). I saw a Chili’s restaurant at the corner. So I gave thanks for Chili’s. It sounded silly at the time, and so I asked God to expound on that. What came to mind were all the wonderful times I spent at Chili’s with good friends, like Tom Nicoles (my worship leader colleague for over 20 years; we always meet at Chili’s). I also thought about how my wife and I did pre-marital counseling at Chili’s with Lorinda and Jerry. Chili’s was always a great spot to meet people. Plus, I love their food!
I was so caught up in giving thanks that the light already turned green and I was holding up traffic!
What’s so great about this way of praying is that we are asking for the Lord’s help in it. We do not know how to pray or give thanks as we ought and the Holy Spirit loves to teach us how. It takes the onus from our own mind and memory and places it on the Lord, who knows us better than we know ourselves. This is part of the “light and easy yoke” that Jesus teaches us in Matt 11:28-30.
God knows we need help in giving thanks. It’s not easy or natural. But with His help we can get into the flow of becoming “thank-full.” And that opens us up to living life from a Whole Life Worship perspective.