Of the first things that come to my mind when I am giving thanks to God are my “loved ones.” These are family and friends who make life worth living, those people who have loved us and whom we have had the honor and privilege to love. Whenever I pause to give thanks, the very first person I am thankful for is my wife, Letty. Then I think about my sons, my grandsons, my daughter-in-law, my parents, brothers and sisters, in-laws, and the many friends God has blessed me with. Thanks to social networking, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (they do have redeeming qualities) I’m also in touch with loved ones throughout my past, and it gives me more reason to give thanks to God.
Indeed, we experience the blessings of God through those who have loved on us. And there is even more blessing we receive when we love on them. It’s truly an amazing thing.
It’s easy to give thanks for those who love you. I can easily say “thank you” to God for special people in my life. But I have recently challenged myself to go deeper in giving thanks for them. There are great riches we uncover when we explore the depths of our empowering relationships. The sense of gratitude wells up inside of us as we begin to perceive the extent of how these people have touched our lives and encouraged our souls. That is when the power of thanksgiving becomes transforming to me.
Here are a few ways that have helped me to go deeper in giving thanks for my loved ones:
1. Shoot up a quick thank you to God when these people come to mind. This is part of worshiping God in our everyday ordinary. Instead of allowing thoughts of people to flit and float in and out of our minds, notice them and capture them. Then give thanks for them, right then and there.
2. Send a quick email, text message to them. Let them know that God brought them to your mind and express your thanks for them. Who knows where that will lead? It could open things up to greater things, greater blessings, and greater opportunities for ministry.
3. If God brings someone to mind more than once in a short season, stay with it for a couple of minutes. Here’s where we can go deeper. Ponder on how that person blessed your life. Relive some of the highlights. Think about how your life was impacted and changed because of that person. Reflect on the Christ-like qualities they exhibited and how you can emulate them to bless others as you have been blessed.
I think about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beautiful, classic poem, “How Do I Love Thee?” In the first few lines she pens:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
Browning uses the Biblical analogy of love right from Ephesians 3:18 (not sure if she took it from there, but the dimensional aspect of love was certainly Paul’s original idea). Surely, God reveals the depth and breadth and height of His love in many ways. But one of the greatest ways He reveals His manifold dimensioned love is through the special people He brought into our lives. As He incarnated His love to the world through His Son, God continues to incarnate His love to us personally through the love of others; especially through those who intentionally represent Christ on earth.
One last thought: we tend to take our loved ones for granted. Regularly offering up thanksgiving for them keeps us from falling into those dangerous places of “ignorance” and “entitlement.” Our loved ones are the most precious personal gifts to us from God. Therefore, Satan works overtime to keep us oblivious to what is most precious to us. Satan knows that he can trap us in a prison of bitterness, guilt and regret when we take our loved ones for granted when we lose or destroy those relationships.
So let’s give thanks for our loved ones. We realize we are so much more blessed than we thought when we do.