This coming week, it’s Thanksgiving in the United States. Originally, Thanksgiving was a day to express gratitude to God for the harvest received that year, particularly when the early pilgrims to America celebrated it. Now, it’s expanded to be a day for us to think about the ways we’ve been blessed in the past year.
At its best, Thanksgiving is a reflective holiday to consider our lives and situations. It brings us together with those we care about. Most importantly, it gives us a chance to remember all that God does for us.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about giving time and service to God generously (you can read these by clicking the links at the bottom of this article). While these are things we ought to do year-round, this time of year is great for reminders. And with Thanksgiving just days away, giving gratitude to God generously seems like a good reminder for all of us. So we’re going to look at some ways we can be more generous in our gratitude to God.
But first, let’s review what it means to be generous toward God. “Generous” means giving liberally or abundantly, and I see that as challenging us a bit. Generosity to me also seems to imply that we have to stretch a bit to give.
So we’re looking at ways to give to God a bit more than we have in the past. This shouldn’t be overwhelming—remember, small steps are still progress.
5 Ways to Show Gratitude to God
If there’s one way I’m sure most of us have given thanks to God, I’d guess that it’s prayer. Prayer is a simple way to express gratitude to God each day. We can thank Him directly for all things in our lives, big and small. From getting a job to having food on the table, our thanks to Him can be pretty detailed and specific when we make sure to thank Him every day.
Some people will sometimes choose to do gratitude-only prayers for a few days to help them refocus on their blessings and the help the Lord has given them. These can be helpful prayers when life gets chaotic because we then remember the important things we already have and—more important—the relationship we can rely on with our Father and Savior.
God is highly involved in our lives, even when we don’t deserve it. That’s what makes Him so good and merciful. King Benjamin shows this clearly when he says:
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.Mosiah 2:20-21
It’s important that we recognize the many ways God works in our lives to keep us alive, guide us, and support us. We can do this as we pray, but we can also do things like keep journals of gratitude or the ways we see Him working in our lives. I’ve personally found that helpful because it challenges me to pause and actively look for Him in my daily life. Sometimes those things seem small, but they are still proof that He is aware of me and actively involved in my life.
3. Using His Blessings
When we receive gifts, one of the best things we can do to show gratitude for them is by using them. Your mom gave you a sweater? You show gratitude by wearing it. You got a rice cooker for your birthday? We can bet you’re cooking rice with it.
God’s gifts are different, but no less usable and certainly more important than a sweater or rice cooker. His greatest gift to us is His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave us the incredible gift of His Atonement. We’ve also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living prophets on the earth today, and the scriptures so we can continually learn about our God and Savior.
Probably the best way we can show gratitude for these gifts is by using them. They aren’t doing us any good when we ignore them. So reading the scriptures and listening to the direction from the Holy Spirit and our living prophets, then following through and doing as we’re taught is a great evidence of gratitude. Applying the Atonement in our lives shows Christ that we value His infinite sacrifice on our behalf.
4. Obeying His Commandments
Obedience to the commandments may not always seem like a form of gratitude. But it is. Christ sacrificed so much for us, and all He really asks in return is that we come to Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, obey His commandments, and bring others to Him.
These things are challenging, but they are still relatively small when compared with the gifts we are receiving. Especially when you consider that God blesses you even more for choosing to obey.
Obedience isn’t a payment to Christ for services rendered; it’s a clear demonstration of gratitude that recognizes our inability to ever pay Him back. We can show Him gratitude by doing the little He asks us to do.
5. Blessing Other People
Like the hymn “Because I Have Been Given Much” teaches:
Because I have been given much
I too must give.
Because of Thy great bounty,
Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from Thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.Text by Grace Noll Crowell, “Because I Have Been Given Much,” Hymn #219
We are greatly blessed to know the gospel and our Father in Heaven. We’re blessed to understand that our Savior Jesus Christ has sacrificed for us. Each of us has unique blessings in our lives that we can carry to others and share.
The Lord does bless us, but He often blesses people through the hands of other people. This gives us the chance to show gratitude to Him and to experience the greatness of giving ourselves.
While there are many ways we are limited as mortals, and while we can never repay our God for His overflowing blessings and love, we can still give our daily gratitude to Him. Find the way that works for you. He will gladly accept your efforts and understand your ways of expressing gratitude. And He will love you all the more for it.