As one who is alive to the devastation of our planet, the terrible things we do to each other, the hollow places of life and love, “thank you” is sometimes the hardest thing to say. I don’t just mean to God – as in, “thank you for this food, thank you for this day, thank you for life.” I mean to my friends, when they show what I feel is heroic care for me at my most difficult. Or to my husband, who honestly puts up with a lot from me as I try to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (and days when I don’t seem to be trying much at all). “Thank you” is both what I was raised to say when someone does something nice (and thus often doesn’t feel like “enough” when someone does something really nice) and incredibly difficult to say when much seems bad and getting worse.
But gratitude, giving thanks and praise to God, covers Scripture as the waters cover the sea. The Psalter is filled with exhortation upon exhortation to praise the Lord and give thanks for the work of God’s hands. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his steadfast love endures forever,” both Psalm 136 and Psalm 107 begin (and Psalm 118 and others echo). Psalm 118:24 celebrates, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 100 is a psalm for giving thanks. Psalm 50:23 connects salvation with gratitude: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
James 1:17 gives us good reason to be thankful: ” Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Paul writes to the Colossians, commanding them to be thankful, “and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” When Jesus is instituting the Last Supper – what we celebrate as Communion – before each element (wine and bread) is divided, he gives thanks for it, knowing the terrible suffering that awaits Him, that He, too, will be broken for us (Luke 22:14-23). When He had broken bread (that He had given thanks for/blessed) previously, it fed a multitude (Luke 9: 10-17).
Giving thanks – saying “thank you” – is to both name and affirm that you are blessed and to bless. It is Scripture’s picture of mental health – but it is so when we are thankful in all things, not necessarily for all things (1 Thess. 5:18). Every good and perfect gift comes from Lord, James writes. Not “everything comes from the Lord.” There is an enemy of our souls who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and would love nothing more than to bring about the destruction of God. But this is precisely why we are to be thankful in all things: nothing resists the power of evil and destruction faster than saying praising God and blessing one another. Nothing says “no” to darkness like saying “thank you” to God. Nothing staves evil’s reign quite like gratitude, the joy of naming the blessings of God.