Adopting a Posture of Thankfulness
Pausing in the midst of our busyness to ruminate on God's faithfulness.
We are quickly approaching the busiest time of the year. Our schedules, already so jam-packed, are becoming loaded with parties to attend, travel plans to finalize, shopping lists to complete. Continual reminders of what we lack—what we have yet to acquire or achieve—appear before us.
And yet, in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, we as a culture set aside time for thankfulness. If we approach Thanksgiving passively, as just another wave of holiday commotion, the intention of the day can feel hollow. We water down what it means to give thanks to sharing trite affirmations around a dinner table. But to reduce thankfulness in this way is to neglect an essential aspect of our lives of faith.
Thankfulness is an opportunity to pause and reflect. While the frenetic pace of our lives typically keeps our eyes fixed on what comes next, a posture of thanksgiving invites us to perceive and celebrate all of the ways we have been blessed and provided for. We take stock; we reflect on the highs and lows of the past season and acknowledge that in the face of all of it God has carried us through.
The importance of thankfulness is emphasized in the psalms, where psalms of thanksgiving make up an entire category of the poems and songs contained in the text. Scholars have described the psalms of thanksgiving as the natural counterpart of another category of psalms, the psalms of lament. Where the lament psalms call out to God for help and comfort in the midst of moments of struggle or grief, thanksgiving psalms celebrate God’s providence and care in answering our prayers.
Both lament and thanksgiving are a part of the natural rhythms of faith. We can bring our worries and our pains before our Creator and ask for guidance and help. And we can rejoice and cherish the gifts and answers the Spirit has provided. In thankfulness, we reap the harvest God has produced in our lives and root ourselves even more firmly in God’s love.
Psalms of thanksgiving typically contain three key elements:
I. A declaration of praise to God highlighting God’s response to a specific situation
II. An invitation for others to join in a posture of thankfulness
III. A reaffirmation of an individual or community’s commitment to God
In these three characteristics, we see a model for what it looks like to embrace thankfulness. As we look back, reflecting on how the Spirit has been at work in our lives, thankfulness moves us to a response. We shout for joy; we take stock for the future; we seek to reflect the generosity we have experienced within our communities.
Thankfulness is not static. Acknowledging and appreciating what we have been given reorients how we embrace what is yet to come. In the words of Psalm 118,
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever…
4 Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
5 In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
To give thanks is to refuse to adopt a posture of discontentment and insatiability. Instead, thankfulness enables us to live our lives out of an appreciation for the goodness and truth of God.
In the midst of our busyness, may we make space to truly pause and give thanks for the ways that God is continually moving us toward beauty and peace. Amen.
Writing: Emma Tweitmann
Photographer: Luca Bravo