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Thanksgiving- It Ain’t Just a Holiday

How Thanking the Lord Leads to Worshipful Living that Will Transform You and Your Marriage from the Inside Out

I’m sure you’ve noticed all the holiday decorations in stores right now. How could you miss them? Some stores have had their Christmas decorations up since August!

When I visit Walmart, trying to focus on Fall and all the fun festivities it brings, Christmas decorations tempt my gaze. I admire the few rows of Fall/Thanksgiving decorations sprinkled amidst the vastness of Christmas:

Signs that say “Grateful, thankful, blessed.”

Or “Give thanks with a joyful heart.”

Or just simply: “Blessed.”

I read these signs and think: AM I grateful and thankful? DO I give thanks with a joyful heart? Does my attitude show that I believe I’m blessed?

Standing in the middle of the Walmart aisle, I stare at these little signs of thanksgiving, surrounded by the abundance of Christmas décor. It seems everyone is in a rush to get through Thanksgiving.


When it boils down to it, isn’t it because there are no presents involved?

After all, what’s so exciting about a holiday on which you don’t GET anything?

A feast with family, some great football, maybe a day or two off work, but really, it’s easy to wonder- what else is Thanksgiving good for?

As a kid I remember one Thanksgiving tradition: my mom or grandma would say, “Let’s go around the table and say one thing you’re grateful for.”

It’s a nice gesture and an important action- showing thankfulness.

But what does that MEAN- showing thankfulness?

Should it be a one-time thing? An occasional “Thank you, Lord!” when we feel grateful that something happened the way we wanted it to?

Should it be something we practice? Like “no-complain” November when you list something you’re grateful for every day of the month?

Or should we take it one step further and write down 3 specific things we’re thankful for at the end of every day… for an entire year?

Is thankfulness something we show whenever we receive something? Like writing thank you cards, or inviting people over as a way to say, “thank you”?

Or is it something more?

When I think of those “Grateful, thankful, blessed” signs in the store, and consider whether my attitude and life reflect a heart of gratitude, I am tempted to buy them all and hang them around my home in hopes that some of those words will rub off on me.

Because the truth is, if I’m being brutally honest, I’m a lot like Walmart. I save a little bit of space for gratefulness but devote an awful lot of time trying to sell myself on temporary things that will never satisfy. Things like comfort, material items, short-term accomplished goals, a clean house, a larger income, a trimmer body, the list goes on and on.

In this post, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we will…

  • Spend time remembering WHY we should be thankful. When our world, at times, seems to be falling apart, WHY should we give thanks and praise?

  • Discuss how gratefulness is NOT limited to an occasional “Thanks, God.” Rather, it should be a way of worshipful living. HOW does that happen? What does it look like to live in genuine gratitude to the Lord?

  • Look at how worshipful living will transform our lives- and our marriages- from the inside out.

Give thanks and praise… Why?

I once attended church with a single mother of two teenage children. One day, we heard the news that her daughter had died in a tragic train accident.

It is SO hard to wrap our head around heartbreaking instances like that. How does the world keep turning? Shouldn’t everyone just stop and crumble in grief?

Many months later, this woman delivered a moving message to our church. While I don’t remember her exact words, the message was clear: “No matter what happens, no matter what life brings your way, you must keep praising God. Keep thanking Him. He is a GOOD God, and He is worthy of our praise. I know it is hard. I know sometimes you may not want to, and you won’t feel like it. But He's still worthy. Choose to give Him thanks and praise. No matter what.”

As she spoke, I looked at her with awe.

Here was someone who had every reason to succumb to sadness, bend to bitterness, and be holed up in hopelessness. But rather than focusing on the brokenness of life around her- with all its flaws and failures- she turned her eyes to the ONE who could somehow work it all together for her good… and HIS glory.

That’s where we always need to start- with OUR EYES FIXED ON HIM:

The One who loves us best.

The One who loves us SO MUCH that He sent His son Jesus to pay the price (to die on the cross and raise again) so that we can be in relationship with Him.

Even when we bend and break.

Even when our world falls apart.

Even when we try and fail.

If we have placed our faith in Christ, we are children of the most high God. John tells us in 1 John 3:1: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. Paul also tells us it is so: …in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (Galatians 3:26).

So, WHY should we be grateful?

Because the God of the universe loves us and desires a relationship with us! He stepped into all the muck and mire, sin and shame, brokenness and evil, reached out His hand to us, and said “I love you. I want you to be my child. Come, follow me.”

Doesn’t that just make your heart want to scream, “THANK YOU, LORD!”?

If it doesn’t…

Let me encourage you to spend some devoted time with Him each day:

  • Pray that He would show you His character and draw you to Himself

  • Read His Word daily

  • Talk to other believers in Christ who know Him and know His Word, but FIRST…

  • Talk to HIM. Share your heart with Him- the good, the bad, the ugly. He knows it all anyway! He just wants you to talk with Him about it so that He can walk through it with you, showing you the best way. HIS way.

Because guess what?

HE IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). HE IS the way to the Father. And HE LOVES YOU.

Feeling grateful yet? I sure am.

If you’re anything like me, it’s way too easy to lose sight of Him and focus my time, thoughts, and attention on “all that’s wrong” or “all that could be better” in my life.

It’s hard to be thankful when we’re focused on our imperfect lives.

(Remember in last week’s post how I mentioned “forget the bad and remember the good?” Click HERE to read.)

I think God, being the loving Father He is, knows negativity can be a natural outflow of our sin nature. So He tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by KEEPING OUR EYES (FIXED) ON JESUS, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

Eyes fixed on HIM. The One who loves us best.

Just as we received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we must walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).

WHY should we be grateful? Because even when our lives look terrible and things seem to crumble around us…

This life is temporary- just wait till we see what He has for us after this! We can only imagine. It’s enough to make us say Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits! Just like David did in Psalm 103:1-2.

HOW should we give thanks?

If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to fall into the hum-drum routine of quickly saying, “Thanks, God,” when something turns out the way I’d hoped… or… let’s be real… the way I think it should turn out.

Don’t get me wrong- those “Thank you, God” moments are important, too!

But should they be the only moments of thanksgiving we offer to our Father, Rescuer, Lover of our souls?

What about when things DON’T go as planned?

You and your spouse are fighting, the car broke down on the way to work, the medical diagnosis is worse than you thought, your child is “not who you raised her to be”? What then? Does God deserve our thanks?

Absolutely. (Remember why? Because of WHO God is and WHAT He’s done. We fix our eyes on Him and our hearts are reminded of His love.)

But practically, what does that look like in our lives? How can we make giving thanks go from just one or two aisles in Walmart to a total store-takeover?

How can we live in a completely thankful way, living worshipful lives in the midst of any and every situation- good or bad?

Here’s an example:

Have you heard of Corrie Ten Boom- Christian author and speaker, also a survivor of the Holocaust? Corrie and her sister Betsie were imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews in their Holland home. The prison conditions were unbearable. In her book, The Hiding Place, she writes of life in the barracks:

“It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy”…
When they were moved to Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified when she discovered their disgusting, straw-beds swarmed with fleas. How could they live in such a place?
It was Betsie who discovered God’s answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.
Betsie said, “We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
And they did.
They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God’s Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.
The fleas! Corrie thought. This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’  Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
So, they gave thanks for the fleas.
Well, it turned out the fleas were a nuisance, but also a blessing!
Corrie goes on to explain: “The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and harassing them. They finally discovered that it was the fleas that kept those supervisors out.
Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment.  Dozens of desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope-giving Word of God.  Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met.”

Talk about worshipful living!

Rejoice ALWAYS. Pray CONSTANTLY. Give thanks IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

You may be fighting with your wife for the fifth time today. You may be heartbroken because of a secret your husband has been keeping. Maybe your spouse has said something so hurtful you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to forgive them.

Still, God tells us:

  • Rejoice in Him. Why? Because we might not have the power to forgive, heal, and make things new in our marriage, but HE does. And IN HIM, we can forgive our spouse, working to heal and begin anew in our marriage. (Listen to a helpful podcast on forgiving your spouse HERE. Or, check out these blog posts on forgiveness: Help! My Marriage is “Stuck” and Has Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse? Part 1 and Part 2.)

  • Pray constantly. Why? Because He hears our prayers and is faithful to answer them in ways best suited to us, our marriages, and our circumstances.

  • Give thanks in ALL circumstances- even the crummy ones. Why? Because we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

In EVERY circumstance, God will provide for our EVERY need (Phil. 4:19). And if we keep our eyes fixed on HIM, our desires will align with His.

As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “God gives me whatever I want, because I want whatever He gives.”

What a good God we serve- worthy of our thanks and praise!

So, because God is good and worthy, we rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is worshipful living.

How does worshipful living transform our lives and marriage from the inside out?

I have a very dear friend who’s currently walking through a season of uncertainty and change. It’s putting stress on her marriage as she wrestles with the possibility of a major career change. The job she’s had for almost 2 decades is a great job, with many perks, and it’s one she’s good at.

But the past year has brought a quiet and persistent nudging from the Lord of the possibility He has something very different in mind for her. Part of the struggle: her husband isn’t convinced this is the best move for their family. Financially, he’s not sure they can swing it. This is also a concern of hers.

She won’t make the decision to change careers unless two things occur:

  1. The Lord makes it clear that it is His will

  2. Her husband is in full support. (Are you and your spouse agreeing to disagree when it comes to decisions that affect your marriage? Read I'm Sick of Fighting with My Spouse! Should We Just Agree to Disagree? for more information).

This difficult time- filled with questions and uncertainty- has the potential for division in their marriage and stress on their family.

So, she gets up early every day and pours her heart out to the Lord, praying for guidance. That He would open and close doors as He leads her in His will.

But she admits that in the waiting it can be very difficult to give thanks.

The Bible offers encouragement and instruction:

  • Philippians 4:6- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

  • Colossians 4:2: Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

In times of uncertainty and waiting, I find this prayer helpful:

Lord, thank You for the uncertainty that pushes me to seek God’s will harder. For the questions that force me back to Your word for answers. For the desperation that brings me to Your feet every day.

My friend told me she finishes every prayer with: “Lord, I love You. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” This is a woman who:

  • KNOWS God is good and worthy, NO MATTER THE OUTCOME- whether it matches her expectations or not

  • Loves the Lord and wants whatever He gives

  • Believes Psalm 100:5- For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

And yet, she struggles with frustration, temptation to isolate from her husband, and lack of joy. She struggles to see how worshipful living can transform her life- and marriage- from the inside out.

Recently she shared a moment she had a few months ago in which the Lord said to her, “Every day you say you trust Me. But are you LIVING like you trust Me?”

It got her attention.

If I really believe God will take care of this situation, why am I anxious? Why am I stressed out about it every day? I need to LIVE as though I believe His promises; that He’s got it all taken care of.

She knows all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory (2 Cor. 1:20).

Therein lies to the key:

Worshipful living means believing His promises. Not just giving lip-service, but deep down in the quietest, darkest parts of our hearts BELIEVING His promises- to the point of LIVING out their truth.

Worshipful living means trusting His promises. doing so will transform our lives and set us free.

Know His Promises

To believe His promises, we must KNOW his promises. To know His promises, we must be in His Word. There are so many promises of God in Scripture, and these are not flippant or casual (just saying what we want to hear). These promises are ironclad, rock-solid commitments made by God to us, His children.

Let's look at just a few, then we’ll look at how they transform...

First and foremost, He promises salvation to all who believe in His Son (Romans 10:9). There is no greater promise fulfilled, not greater blessing than the free gift of salvation.

But it doesn’t stop there!

And those are just a handful, friends! We could do a whole series on the promises of God!

To sum up the ones we just read: We are promised eternal life with God through Christ and a new life- right now. In this new life, He gives us comfort in our trials, peace in our prayers, and reassurance that ALL things will work out for our good. He WILL finish any work He starts in us.

Now, let's look at how those promises can transform our lives...

Vow to change: an encouraging call to action

For the one who hasn’t put their faith in Christ: there is a free gift of grace and salvation waiting for you to grab hold of. We pray that you do. (For more information on this, click HERE.)

For those who HAVE put their faith in Christ: these promises mean we have NEW LIFE in Christ, and we are FREE from sin and its power. That doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but it does mean we aren't slaves to sin as we once were (Romans 6:17-18). Why? Because we have the power of Christ residing in us!

  • What sin(s) is standing in the way of unity with your spouse? Write it down.

  • Confess and repent before the Lord and your spouse. (Want to learn more about reconciliation with your spouse? Check out: 3 Steps Toward Reconciliation in Your Marriage.)

  • Continue to pray for God to remove sin and tear down divisions. Remember: sin has no power over what God has brought together.

God is working ALL things out for the good of His children. Do you believe the same is true for you and your marriage?

  • In which areas are you struggling to believe that? What seems like it will NEVER change? Never be healed? Never be forgiven? Write down your answers; Be honest and specific with your answers.

  • If you're desiring change, start by reading THIS.

  • If you're having trouble with forgiveness, listen to How to Help a Hurting Marriage: Forgiveness (Part 5) :: [Ep. 97].

  • Memorize Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. When you doubt, ask God to remind you He is working all things together for your good, your spouse’s good, and His glory.

Whatever your marital struggles or trials in life, God has promised us His comfort. We need only turn to Him for it, rather than seeking it for ourselves. Bring your emptiness before Him and ask Him to fill you with His comfort.
  • What are you turning to for comfort in your life? Is it the Lord, time in His Word, prayer? Or something else? No amount of Netflix binging, money, attention from others, alcohol, drugs, sex, “me time”, perfectionism, vacation, fill in the blank___________ will satisfy or comfort like the Lord. AND… while He has graciously provided us with a partner to love and cherish… even our spouse will not fill the void within us that is meant for God.

  • Write down your “escapes” when you seek comfort. Ask God to remove the idol of comfort, and draw you to Himself as the ultimate Comforter. (For a great read on idols, click HERE.)

If we believe God is at work, we must also believe that whatever He has started, He WILL finish (Philippians 1:6). Where is God working in your marriage? Here are a few areas to think about:

  • Do you need to work on transparency and honesty? Do you need to make more time to pray for and with each other? How’s your physical intimacy? Have you placed more focus on your children than each other?

  • If physical intimacy is an issue in your marriage, read Why Isn't Sex with My Spouse Satisfying?

  • For more information on parenting, read Parenting is HARD!

  • Write down your answers. Pray over each one, asking God what HE wants your next steps to be.

Wherever there’s a need, God is working.

That’s why He tells us, Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Don’t miss that:

Pray WITH THANKSGIVING. WHY??? Because God WILL and IS providing whatever we need most. Whatever our marriage needs most. It’s a done deal; He is taking care of it. Therein we have peace. Thank the Lord!!

Remember my friend? The one struggling with a possible change in career and unity with her husband? I spoke with her the other day and asked how she was doing.

She is clinging to 2 Corinthians 9, verses 8 and 11 which say, And God will generously provide ALL you need. Then you will ALWAYS have EVERYTHING you need, and plenty left over to share with others. Yes, you will be enriched in EVERY way so that you can ALWAYS be generous.

She knows this means that no matter what- career change or no career change, God will provide ALL she and her family need. ALWAYS- they will have EVERYTHING they need. Not only that, but plenty left over to share with others! She’s trusting God’s promise that she will be enriched in every way, so that she can always be generous- to her husband, to her children, to the other people God has placed in her life- be it at her current job or elsewhere.

The same is true for all of us. The path ahead may not be clearly marked; the road before us may look rocky- even insurmountable at times. But we can trust that God is with us, working everything out for our good and His glory.

Trust in His promises. Live as though you believe those promises.

Then, your life- and marriage- will be transformed. And a life transformed stems from a heart of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for WHO God is and HOW He is working. (Even if we can’t always see it.)

Let’s not limit Thanksgiving to one day. Let’s not cheapen it to an overlooked holiday. Instead, let gratitude grace your heart and spill over into your life to help you live in worshipful thanksgiving- no matter your circumstances.

Let’s ask God to give us heart like David in Psalm 100 as he says:

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

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