In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims had a lot of things to be grateful for as they celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

After surviving a brutal winter that wiped out half their number, they gathered together, along with some Wampanoag Indians, to celebrate God’s goodness.

Roughly 250 years later, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Today, while we still celebrate Thanksgiving, we can easily become so caught up in the consumerism of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas that we forget the gracious goodness of God.

This time of year is about much more than turkey, pumpkin pie, and Black Friday shopping. It is a time to look to Almighty God with reverence, praise, humility, and gratitude.

Here are four ways gratitude can revolutionize your life as you remember the reason for this season.

1. Gratitude transforms life’s disappointments, trials, and pains into offerings of praise.

I Thessalonians 5:16 exhorts, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Through his greatest pain, Paul found comfort in God’s unchanging goodness.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

2. Gratitude motivates surrendered service to God.

Every Christian must live with the gospel in view. It is the message we preach and the reason for everything we do. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).

The gospel is the why behind our lives. Gratitude for the gospel’s transforming power should lead to radical transformation in every area of our lives.

3. Ingratitude is at the root of every transgression.

When we’re thankful for the things God has given us, we don’t desire or lust for the things He’s not given us. In contrast, ingratitude leads to a switch in focus from God to ourselves.

Romans 1 describes a progression of wickedness and perversion, whose starting point was ingratitude. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).

To the children of Israel, God warned,

“When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).

Unfortunately, as chronicled in the book of Judges, the Israelites forget what God did for them.

4. Gratitude brings joy.

William Arthur Ward stated, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Someone else observed, “It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.”

The 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation 

In closing, as you celebrate Thanksgiving, consider these words from Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy….

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

G.K. Chesterton once said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

QUESTION: What past unpleasant experiences are you now thankful for today? Why?

Categories: Character


Ann · November 20, 2018 at 2:35 pm

When I knew my mother was dying, the one thing I prayed for was that as hard as that season would be for me, that it be free of pain for her. That prayer was answered. My mother’s return home has been painful beyond measure for me, but my gratitude that her journey was pain-free cannot be described. The experience has brought me peace and an increased depth of faith even in a short amount of time.

    Joshua Bontrager · November 20, 2018 at 2:43 pm


    Thanks for sharing that experience. Praise God your mother went home without pain. I can’t imagine anything as hard as losing a parent, spouse, or sibling. Even though I’ve not had as many trials as a lot of people, the trials or disappointments I have had have drawn me closer to God.

    May God fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.

      Joshua Bontrager · November 20, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      From your experience, in what ways do you think people who lose close relatives learn to trust God more than people who haven’t yet lost close relatives?

        Ann · November 20, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        When you lose a close relative, you experience something that almost surreal. Everything you feel is magnified, to the point where it seems it ought to be crippling. You face one the worst experiences in life, yet you find a strength from somewhere – that strength is a gift. The gift that ensures you can honour that person’s final wishes, the gift that steers you through the dark days, the gift that allows you to face each new day.

        When you face this experience from a basis of faith, you realise that gift of strength is God-given and it brings your faith into sharp focus. Acceptance of God’s will and his decision to take one of his children home brings peace, the pain remains but is tempered by the knowledge that a higher power is guiding each move. The loss of a parent has been one of the defining times along my journey of faith and I suspect the same is true for many, it will strengthen and deepen your faith or it will shatter it. I felt His help, guidance and blessing in a very real way – you don’t experience that without it changing you.

        There’s a poem called ‘Footprints’ (sometimes called footprints in the sand), the last verse reads:

        He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
        Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
        When you saw only one set of footprints,
        It was then that I carried you.”

        You feel it, you experience it and that’s why you trust differently…His presence becomes so tangible.

Chad · November 21, 2018 at 12:23 pm

They were literally thankful. Thankful to have God. Thankful to be alive. Thankful to have some food. Thankful for the very minimal basics of life.

Chad · November 21, 2018 at 12:32 pm

You should be thankful for anything that makes you turn towards God, run after Him, and hold on to Him with everything that you got. If things that happen to you don’t make you do this then they might just have been a waste.

Alex Miller · November 22, 2018 at 11:03 pm

“Ingratitude is at the root of every transgression.”

Wow, that hit me hard. Love your perspective on Romans 1:21.

    Anonymous · November 23, 2018 at 8:46 am

    That’s good perspective! If gratitude had ruled the garden and the only focus was on being thankful for what they did have then maybe there would have been no fall of man?

      Joshua Bontrager · November 29, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks for that perspective! Like so many of us do today, Adam and Eve desired the thing God had forbidden. When God tells us no to one thing, He always has something greater in store.

Anonymous · November 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm

I love the blog, it is very true.

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