Drawing Near With Gratitude

Drawing Near With Gratitude

Thanksgiving is more than a day on the calendar. For the sincere worshipper of Jesus Christ, it is a way of life. I like to call it Thanksliving

As a matter of fact, the great Apostle Paul spoke of Thanksliving in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. And when he spoke of this, he spoke not out of pleasure, but really out of pain. Paul was facing the end of the road, and he was experiencing deep persecution for his faith. And yet he was able to say, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Scripture tells us repeatedly that we are to give thanks. We should give thanks in all things. We should give thanks for anything. We are to live in a state of perpetual praise. We are always to give thanks and praise the Lord for His blessings. The psalmist said in Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

And so I say with Paul, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” 

Especially during the darkest nights and deepest valleys of life.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Before the diagnosis, I had never had a major illness in my life. I was active physically, playing tennis and golf and working out in the weight room. And then came those dreaded words: “You have prostate cancer.”

I was caught off guard by the news, but I knew I was spiritually prepared. I placed my faith in God long ago, and I knew He was in control. 

I was grateful that the cancer was caught early and grateful for my physician, Dr. Ken Cooper. I just wanted to get the surgery over with and get back to the pulpit as quickly as possible.

Thankfully, the surgery went well. My wife, Deb, and my family were wonderful throughout the process, from diagnosis to recovery. My church family was incredibly gracious and allowed time for me to heal and recover. 

But during my recovery, something set in that I wasn’t prepared for—a battle with anxiety and depression. Something was just not right. I was exhausted. I was fearful. I was weak. I was despondent. It was truly crippling, and I felt as though I would never return to normal. 

It took more than a year, but eventually I came out of that dark valley, thanks to my relationship with the Lord, my time in the Word, the power of prayer, my family, close friends and a counselor.

One thing the counselor recommended was that I keep a gratitude journal. Every day I would write down three things for which I was thankful. This simple exercise lifts your gaze beyond the darkness and helps you focus on the truth around you—there are people who love you, and God has a purpose for your life. 

I trusted in God to pull me through that difficult season. I was grateful for a God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us. That gratitude truly enhanced my relationship with the Lord and my dependence upon Him.

Whatever broken conditions you are facing today—whether it be a health problem or a marriage problem or a prodigal child or the collapse of a career—know that it is often pain that drives us to dependence upon God. God is with you. He cares for you. He hears your prayers. He will see you through these dark moments if you will simply draw near to Him. 

Grow close to Him and experience a much deeper, richer prayer life with the keen awareness of His awesomeness. I’ve always loved this definition of prayer: “linking our nothingness to God’s almightiness.” Such a powerful truth! 

Regardless of what you are experiencing, draw near to Him and give Him the gratitude He deserves. Having an attitude of thanksgiving will not change your circumstances. But thanksgiving and praise will change what your circumstances do to you. You can allow circumstances in life to destroy you, or you can choose to live a life of thanksgiving and allow the circumstances to be a blessing to you. 

And when we say thank You, we should remember that beyond us and beyond our circumstances and beyond what’s going on in our lives, there is a sovereign God who loves us, who has a wonderful plan for our lives, who plans to give us a future and a hope, who is over all things and through whom all things exist and hold together (Colossians 1:15-17).

So, today … and every day … we give thanks at all times. ©2023 Jack Graham

Jack Graham is the longtime senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. His preaching is heard daily on the audio broadcast PowerPoint with Jack Graham and seen weekly on the PowerPoint TV broadcast.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Photo: David Edmonson/Edmonson Photography

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