The Meaning of Thankfulness

Posted by Julia Adams on 11/23/23 9:00 AM

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On October 3, 1789, President George Washington signed the first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. He wrote, “Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States on the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation.”

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Today, we continue that tradition. Many of us are spending time with family orclaudio-schwarz-cgcteFH-azk-unsplash friends. Our tables are laden with good food and new memories are being made. Families may watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade while others play board games. Some are preparing for Black Friday sales or scheming for the annual family football game. Some families are dealing with the grief of an absent loved one, others are welcoming new additions.

In all these circumstances, we are seeking to express gratitude to the Lord—but what does it truly mean to be thankful? We might take time to share about the good times or share one thing that we are grateful for—and while all that is wonderful, is thankfulness more than just counting our blessings?

Time and again, the Lord calls us to give thanks throughout Scripture. We are told to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) and to “give thanks to the LORD, for he is aaron-burden-TNlHf4m4gpI-unsplash-1good,” (1 Chr. 16:34). David wrote about giving thanks to God in the Psalms. He exclaims, “I will give to the Lord thanks due to his righteousness,” (Ps 7:17); “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever,” (Ps 44:8); and in the familiar passage from Psam 100:4 reminding the believer to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

As we read in Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, giving thanks to God is central to the holiday we celebrate today.

Yet, how do we thank God in all circumstances? What does it look like to be truly thankful on an average day?

Dr. Douglas Favelo sees thankfulness as the true understanding of the right order of the universe. “God is God in heaven, and I am not. He alone can create and provide, and I cannot.” The opposite of thankfulness is believing that “all things consist in us as opposed to Him.” It is an attitude of complete dependence on God, “and that it is good and He is good, then we live rightly because we live gratefully.”

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Dr. Steve Hake emphasized that thankfulness is something that should be a daily habit. “I literally try to do that. … The little tape playing ‘Thank You, Jesus; thank you, Lord’ at all times.”

“I think it is part of our Christian life,” Dr. Roberta Bayer said. “If you don’t actually say [to] yourself every day, ‘What am I thankful for?' you end up … being too self-obsessed.”

Because God is who He is, we can make every day a day of thanksgiving. But on this special day, we pray that your cup overflows with thankfulness because, as Anne Shirley once said, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right in the world.”

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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