One of the plaguing sins of American Christians is ingratitude. So many people spend their lives looking for that something—some other place, person, opportunity, recognition—that will be better. Their discontentment diverts their attention from what they already have.
But it’s not just “all those people.” It’s us too. If we do not purposefully guard against ingratitude by expressing thanks, we also will fall into patterns of discontent.
One of the reasons I love Thanksgiving is for how it pushes back against our natural bent for ingratitude. But a grateful spirit doesn’t happen by accident. It is developed as we intentionally give thanks.
For this reason, rather than waiting until Thanksgiving Day to practice gratitude, I try to use the entire month of November as a month to intentionally give thanks.
Where do you begin? Here are five good starting places:
1. Worship God
O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.—Psalm 95:1–2
God deserves our praise. We should enter His presence with praise all year long, but November is an excellent time to focus on thanking Him for who He is what He has done for us.
Sing to Him from your heart. Give added time in your daily devotions to simply thanking Him. Use the book of Psalms to specifically praise the Lord.
2. Create a Record of Gratitude
Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.—Psalm 66:16
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:—Psalm 78:6
This could be as private as a gratitude journal or as public as daily posts on social media. You could do it as a family as we did when our children were small.
3. Express Verbal Praise
And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.—Luke 17:16
Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.—Romans 16:4
Practice verbally saying “thank you” for something specific every day. Thank your spouse, your boss, your parents, your friends, your church family, your neighbors.
Don’t assume that others know how thankful you are for them—tell them.
4. Write Notes of Gratitude
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,—Philippians 1:3
A written thank you note can go a long way. Set a goal this month for writing so many notes of thankfulness, and work to make it a habit that would last throughout the year.
I’m not speaking simply of a thank you note for a recent act of kindness, but of pondering larger ways specific people have invested in or benefited your life. Perhaps this would be a teacher from years ago (or one of your children’s teachers) or a mentor or someone who serves alongside you in church.
5. Serve Others
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;—2 Thessalonians 1:3
Perhaps the fullest expression of gratitude is when we put our thanks in action by serving others. Visit a nursing home. Invite a family who is going through a difficult time over to your home. Deliver a Thanksgiving dinner to a family who is struggling financially.
And when you’re looking for places to serve, don’t overlook your family. Look for something special to do for your spouse or children or parents, just to say “thanks.”
Let’s not wait for Thanksgiving Day and try to squeeze in a year’s worth of gratitude. Let’s work to be people who intentionally practice thanksgiving.