Teaching Our Children What the Bible Says about Gratitude, and How to Express It!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I remember reading this verse with one of our boys when he was small and he was confused. “How can I always be rejoicing? I have to be praying all the time? I don’t think I can be thankful when I’m sick!” I had to agree with him at the time — this verse asks a lot of us! In reading and praying more over it, I was able to tell my son (and myself) this truth:
It’s all about perspective.
“Rejoicing always” doesn’t mean we’re always jumping up and down with excitement, but rather refers to living in the joy of the Spirit. “Pray without ceasing” is not a command to get down on our knees in prayer all day long, but it is about our constant personal connection with God.
“Give thanks in all circumstances” is the easiest part of this passage for me to understand, but it isn’t always the easiest to live out. This time of year, as Thanksgiving approaches, we see people sharing their gratitude all over the place. It’s inspiring, but it doesn’t usually last past the holidays.
Paul wasn’t talking about seasonal gratitude. He was talking about a state of mind that starts with our trust in Jesus and belief that God works out all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When we live this out, we can’t help but give thanks to Him, no matter what we are going through.
When teaching our kids to live with this kind of gratitude, we can start simple. The sweet board book, A Very Thankful Prayer, offers some suggestions in its adorable rhyming text.
Start the day with gratitude
Giving thanks to God right away in the morning shifts our perspective before anything else happens. Even saying, “Thank You, God, for another day to love and serve You!” can completely change how you approach the day!
Thank God for nature
When I’m having a rough day or week, getting out into nature and witnessing God’s beautiful creation can transform my mind. Go outside with your kids and take turns thanking God out loud for the beautiful things you see all around you – the changing leaves, the migrating birds, the refreshing breeze.
Write thank-you notes to family and friends
We write thank-you notes when we receive gifts, but let’s also use them to thank the special people in our lives for the gift of their presence! Set out a stack of blank note cards and encourage family members to use them to write one a week to someone who has helped or blessed them in some way.
In the middle of trials, expressing gratitude to the people God has placed in our lives reminds us we are not alone.
So many families have wonderful Thanksgiving traditions centered around giving thanks, but we can center our homes and family lives around gratitude year-round, in all circumstances, because He is good, He loves us, and those things will never change! Now that is a reason to rejoice!
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Do you have a regular gratitude practice, or a family gratitude tradition? We’d love to hear from you!