Our family was on our usual seven-hour trip home to Michigan when we pulled into a rest stop on the turnpike. In our typical fashion, my husband went in one direction with our two boys, and I took our two girls into the women’s restroom. The day before Thanksgiving was a hopping time at the rest area.
As we walked in, I noticed that, despite how busy it was, the restroom was sparkling clean. I saw a woman hard at work, scrubbing the floors and sinks amidst others walking in and out. It struck me that, while most other women were home preparing turkeys or traveling to visit family, she was doing a thankless job. The bathroom was remarkably tidy and, as any mom would be, I was grateful.
I should say something to her, I thought to myself. When I looked up from the sink, she had disappeared. For a minute, I felt a sense of relief that I could avoid a possibly awkward interaction. But while drying my hands, I felt a nudging within me to go find her and express my thanks. My girls and I walked around the corner to the other side of the restroom and found her reloading her supply cart in a closet. I slowly walked up to her and said, “I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job cleaning this restroom. I really appreciate it.”
A warm and curious smile spread across her face as she looked at me. I wondered if anyone ever thanked her for her diligent work.
Free-Flowing Verbal Refreshment
Why is it that we often think thankful thoughts, but don’t express them with words? Are we afraid of looking foolish or weak? Are we too preoccupied with our own agenda to take the time to offer a word of encouragement? Are we concerned that giving too much praise to someone might inflate their pride?
I remember one Sunday morning, early on in our ministry, when a woman came up to me to tell me how my husband’s sermon had impacted her. “But I didn’t want to tell him,” she confided, “I’m leery of comments like that going to a pastor’s head.” If only she knew how much more freely people seem to speak critical words. Encouraging, thankful words can bring life and refreshment to a weary soul.
Tell of His Wondrous Works
The Bible also exhorts us to give verbal thanksgiving to God. Hebrews 13:15tells us, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Continually offering up praise to God means we must be continually looking for evidences of his grace in our lives. We can thank him that we didn’t cry over the spilled milk at breakfast, or for the sunshine after a bleak winter day, or for the negative answer to our medical tests. Our private prayers and our public acts of praise will turn our hearts heavenward as we count our blessings and give thanks to the one true God.
Psalm 105 exhorts us to not only give thanks to God, but proclaim to others the mighty works he has done.
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! (Psalm 105:1–2)
A central aspect of bringing up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) is simply to share with them our gratitude for the goodness and faithfulness of God in our lives. As we verbally pour out our admiration and gratitude of our great God, our children will catch a vision of the magnificent Lord we are worshiping. Our enthusiasm and love for Jesus will be evident through our words.
Three Reasons to Speak Your Thanks
Likely we all could stand to grow in recognizing all the reasons we have to be thankful — they are all around us. But simply becoming more grateful in our hearts is just the beginning. If gratefulness rises up in our hearts, but never spills out of our mouths, we are only experiencing the beginnings of joy. Gratitude is only fully enjoyed when we share it with others. As C.S. Lewis said, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
So, the next time you find your mind dwelling on a thankful thought, here are three reasons to put those thoughts into words.
1. Expressing gratitude to God can strengthen your faith.
What new mercy has God given you? Did you sleep well at night? Were the bananas perfectly ripe for your breakfast? Is the baby you’re rocking a long-awaited answer to prayer? Did you avoid speaking a frustrated word to your spouse? Don’t let the hours of the day pass you by without stopping to consider what you can give thanks for.
The more you see God’s faithfulness in your life, your family, your spiritual growth, the more confidently will you rest in that faithfulness in the future.
2. You will stir up God’s people to love and good deeds.
Your friend who is willing to drop what she’s doing at a moment’s notice to help when you’re in need. Your mom who sacrificially gives her time and resources to your family. Your pastor who diligently prepares and preaches the word every week. Tell others in your life what you appreciate about them and why. It will bring fresh wind to their souls and spur them on to keep serving (Hebrews 10:24–25).
3. You will create a climate of gratitude.
Psalm 145 tells us to commend our works to the next generation. Sharing how God answered a prayer, provided a necessary resource, or replaced your sorrow with joy will encourage others to find their hope and satisfaction in God. Gratitude can be as contagious as complaining. Work to cultivate the right climate in your home or workplace.
Our words of praise and thanksgiving have the power to lift wounded souls and point our hearts afresh to God. Speak your words of thanks and let God transform your life and soul.