Thanksgiving Meditation: Transform your soul with Gratitude
One of my favorite spiritual disciplines is called a “Thanksgiving Meditation.” We all have a tendency to focus on negative things (by a factor of six); so, if we aren’t savoring our blessings, then we’re going to struggle with chaotic thinking (see Romans 1:21). Blessings must be savored to be enjoyed.
So, grab a journal (or note-taking app) and get ready to start a detailed thank-you note to God. As you do this, God promises to give us peace that doesn’t make sense (see Php.4:6-7). And here are a few prompts to get you started!
THANK GOD FOR…
- FOR MATERIAL BLESSINGS OR OPPORTUNITIES: Make a list of all the material or financial blessings you’ve received over the past several months. Think back on everything: Christmas, Birthdays, furniture, clothing, free/cheap vacations. It might even be a thrift store discovery or a crazy deal off of craigslist. Or just think about the fact that the average person on the planet makes around $1.50 an hour…or roughly $400 / month! Over 1 billion live on less than 1 U.S. dollar per day. Thank God for the opportunities you have been provided with. (And by the way, you can calculate how wealthy you are compared to the world here: https://shorturl.at/zHMUZ which will make you feel super grateful!)
- SPIRITUAL BREAKTHROUGHS: What has God worked into your life? Thank God for the new insights he’s given to you. Even thank him for the pain! And why? Because, like I show in my book Broken Escalators, people who go through great hardships and pain often rate themselves as happier than the general population. Ironically, there’s a significant amount of joy, wisdom and appreciation that can only come through hardship. So acknowledge this. And, even if your circumstances aren’t comfortable yet, thank him for the promises he given to you or will soon fulfill. Even a prophetic word about the future can be a form of spiritual currency that you can give thanks for!
- FOR YOUR JOB: It’s easy to think about the irritating aspects of our jobs. And every job, no matter how amazing, has a portion of it that simply gets old. As the saying goes, “every dream house has new square footage to clean.” And every promotion at work also comes with new irritating responsibilities. So, meditate on the positives, whatever they might be: The benefits, the social interactions, the resume building moments, the flexible scheduling. Think about the ministry opportunities, or the opportunities to expand your skills. And if all of these feel stagnant, just think about the fact that, you HAVE a job! There are dozens of countries where one out of three skilled laborers can’t even get a job. And there are tens of millions of people who, despite having advanced degrees, can’t even do anything related to it due to economic problems or compulsory military service. I.e., give yourself perspective. And let God speak to you about the “opportunities” within your current difficulties.
- FOR ACCESS TO HEAVEN: Remember that heaven is not an endless boring worship service. Rather, God is creating a new heaven and new earth… complete with cities, architecture, jobs, art, culture. Planet earth was just the beginning in God’s mind. In heaven you will have the ultimate job…filled with meaning, purpose and unimaginable resources. Imagine Star Trek mixed with Minecraft. It’s going to be similar to now, except, you’ll have a resurrected body with special abilities – especially the ability to dream big dreams! We will be rewarded for every single deed here on earth. Imagine if I told you that, in this life, “you will only have 3 years of success and then you’ll die a tragic death.” Most of us would feel depressed by such news. And yet, I just described the greatest life that has ever been lived, that of our savior Jesus Christ. And does he regret any of it? Of course not. And why? Because he knew how to think eternally. Therefore, “set your minds on things above” (Col 3:2). Stop thinking that this life is all there is. Rather, this life is simply an opportunity to amplify our eternal rewards. Indeed, our knowledge of the “age to come” gives us infinite advantages to get ahead! You’ve essentially won the lottery! Now go journal about it!
- FOR YOUR FAMILY /FRIENDS: Meditate on anything praiseworthy about them. Think about their redemptive characteristics. Imagine what they would look like as a fully devoted follower of Christ. If God was to affirm their potential, what would he say about them? God is giving you the grace to interact with them, serve them, and experience his grace through them. So, what can you learn about God’s grace shining through them (1 Peter 4:10)? Some of you may want to start with the basics: 17,000 kids under five die every day of preventable things. “So, Lord, I thank-you that I even have a family. Thank you that I still have a chance to influence my family. Thank you that, even if my family can’t currently provide for my needs, you’ve given me the ability to become adopted into a church family who can help me. At any given moment, God is always giving us divine relationships. So, acknowledge them.
- FOR YOUR CHURCH FAMILY: What “breakthroughs” or cool things that have occurred in your church community over this last year? Have there been any new ministries that have been started or rebooted? The church is one of the greatest opportunities we’ve been given to store up treasure in heaven. It’s like a stock market of ministries that can result in eternal dividends. Indeed, serving others is what liberates us from the tyranny of our overly magnified needs. So, what ministry opportunities can you thank God for right now? Take time to acknowledge where your church is stretching your capacity right now.
- If God were to tell you: “Here are two or three “circumstantial gifts” I’ve given to you right now, that I want you to enjoy,” what might they be? A circumstantial gift might be a friend, an opportunity, a temporary blessing (like an exciting weekend, or a gorgeous day).
- Create a “Trophy Case” in your Phone’s Photo Album: A while back, my friend Larry Brey (from Elevation Church) was thumbing through an album of pics on his phone. Whenever he has a highlight moment in his life… a big event, or moment that fosters gratitude, he puts it into his “Trophy Case.” So, over the years, I’ve adopted this habit. Whenever someone sends me a thoughtful text, an encouraging note, I take a pic. And over time, this album becomes a testimony to God’s faithful provision: He has opportunities, mountain tops, and most importantly, people to share them with!
- Start a “10 Year Journal” – Every night, I log 4 sentences about each day. I started with a leather bound 10 yr journal. But I found it tedious to travel with. So, I now use a digital journal (see example here on Etsy) – which allows me to do it on my phone (and add pictures). Usually, I describe new people I’ve met, significant conversations I’ve had with my kids, or opportunities or accomplishments that happened that day (no matter how small). I keep it under 4 sentences so that it doesn’t become an unmanageable habit. But the brilliance of this habit is realized at the end of the year. Around New Years, I read through all of them to create a “highlight list.” I compile all the experiences and relationships God has given to me that year. I’m always shocked by how much God has actually done in my life each year. Almost all of the greatest miracles in my life started as insignificant footnotes. Every year, I look back and freak out over a few mundane entries… moments when a new hand-shake turned into a new best friend… moments when a small “Yes” led to a giant “opportunity.” Thus, the goal isn’t merely to celebrate “mountain-tops” but to acknowledge the mundane moments that got us there. God is always opening more doors than we realize!
Now, over time, you’ll become better at gratitude. It’s like a muscle that needs to be flexed. If you do this with any depth, you should be able write an entire page on each one of these areas. Again, this isn’t some superficial exercise; rather, this needs to be a transformational meditation.
Want More Ideas? See my blog on “Forced Gratitude” – the psychology of of hacking your brain!