6 Creative Ways to Develop Gratitude
With the busy lives most of us lead, expressions of thanksgiving to God may seldom occur outside of mealtime prayers. Words of praise find few places to surface as we scurry through our day. We manage to squeeze in time to ask God for something, but how often do we just say “thank you”?
The Bible teaches that giving thanks should be a priority. We have the example of the Apostle Paul who begins almost all his letters to the early churches by expressing thanks. Also we receive instruction in passages such as Colossians 3:1-17, titled “Rules for Holy Living” in the NIV, which closes with “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” and Ephesians 5:20, which encourages us to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Although it may take time to work up to thanking God for everything, a grateful attitude will allow us to see our relationship with Him in the proper perspective. We will understand our great need for God and stay humble before Him and the people around us. Let’s be a blessing to God and others as we focus on developing and expressing a heart of thanksgiving.
Here are six creative ways to help develop an attitude of gratitude:
1. Family thanksgiving journal. Use a notebook or blank journal to record what your family is thankful for. Add to it all year round during family devotions, or create an annual tradition where each family member contributes one message a year. Read past entries as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
2. Name exchange. This is an idea for a dinner party or holiday gathering. Toss everyone’s name in a hat, then have each person draw one name. Allow some time for thought, then have everyone take a turn finishing this sentence, “I’m thankful for _[name drawn]__ because ________.”
3. Table accents. Create easy, yet meaningful favors or place cards for guests at your holiday dinner.
- Use a paint pen to write “Thank you, God, for family and friends,” on pressed leaves. Place one on each plate.
- Bundle a few wrapped chocolates or unshelled nuts in little squares of netting. Tie them with fall-colored ribbon and add a Psalm 95:2 tag, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving…”
4. Thankful notes. Writing requires us to slow down, reflect, and choose our words carefully.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up…” Thoughtfully telling people what they mean to you will build up their spirit.
- If you have a husband, write a letter detailing why you’re thankful for him. Find a nice quiet time to read it aloud to him.
- If you have children, write a letter to each of them, separately. (Write even if they are young. They’ll treasure it some day.) If you have teens, perhaps leave the letters in their rooms to be “discovered” and read alone. Identify their strengths and encourage them with appreciative comments on those positive characteristics.
- Keep several little note cards in supply. Then once a month, ask God to show you someone to bless — a neighbor, bus driver, scout leader or co-worker. A simple note saying “I thank God for you” will suffice.
5. Church staff appreciation. Many churches now celebrate a Pastor appreciation day, but what about those serving behind-the-scenes? Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Gather a few church friends and assign one staff member to each. Each friend brings a card and a baked good to her worker on behalf of everyone.
6. Thankful box. Purchase a small decorative box or wrap a shoebox with pretty paper. Put a notepad and pen inside and set it on your dresser. Everytime you’re angry with a person or situation in your life, write a note to God before you go to bed that night, expressing why you’re thankful for that person or difficulty. Use these slips during future quiet times to randomly select someone or something to pray for.
These outward activities serve to change us inside, to change our hearts. An earnestly developed attitude of gratitude will be reflected in our private walk with God. Be encouraged to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).