When I was young my parents had to chivvy me to write ‘Thank you letters’. Now I find myself pestering my own children to do the same! There is something really important in saying thank you and something seriously missing when you don’t. The French word ‘merci’ comes from a Latin word that means a fee or price: it is what you owe someone when they have done something for you.
Nurturing a thankful heart is a Christian duty. ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). It is God’s will that we give thanks to him for his gifts, whatever our circumstances. Billy Graham said: ‘A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord. Thank God in the midst of trials and even persecution.’
How is that possible? I know that the trials and struggles and heartaches of today can loom so large in our minds that they can rob us of joy and it can be hard to see any blessings to count. But it is a command from God … so we must learn, we must school ourselves, to do the hard work of seeing where we can still find blessings in our trials and give thanks for them. Maybe twice a day you could just look around you, or look at your diary, or a photograph, or remember a happy time, or savour the taste of an apple or the scent of a flower or the colour of a ladybird, and give thanks. Even – especially – when your life feels really tough.
Harvest services may help us. The origin of the American season of Thanksgiving dates from 1621 when the Plymouth colonists held an Autumn feast, and invited 90 Native Americans, because their harvest had been good in their new homeland.
God is the great giver of grace, and grace calls forth gratitude. If you know your sins forgiven, if you know that your life is held in the hands of a loving Saviour who has given himself for you even to death on a cross, then you will be grateful and you will want to be grateful. The French say ‘merci’ – we owe him our thanks. But the Spanish say ‘gracias’ – for his gifts are gifts of grace.
So let’s have our own season of Thanksgiving. Say Thank You, with a big smile, to those who serve you, love you, wait for you, are kind to you. And pray Thank You, with a big heart, to God for his gifts.
And thank you for reading! With best wishes – James