A Thanksgiving Sacrifice
by Jody Slaughter
In Psalm 116 we find a song of thanksgiving. The psalmist proclaims his love for the Lord, shares his desperate situation, his anguished cry for help, and God’s gracious rescue. God’s action and character is revealed, and the psalmist is thankful. The writer says, “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord protects the simple; when I was brought low, He saved me…for the Lord has dealt bountifully with me. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” (Psalm 116:5-8) After he describes the ways God takes care of him, then he poses the question, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?”(Psalm 116:12) Often in the cries for help in lament songs, the singer promises praise or sacrifices when God delivers him. Just as the psalmist is thankful and offers his vows to God, we can be reminded of the importance of taking our promises to God seriously and being thankful for the ways God has provided for us.
There is a worship song I learned years ago. One line says, “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” When I first heard it I questioned how praising God could be a sacrifice. I always enjoyed praising God. But then, as I went through a difficult time, and went to church, I realized I didn’t feel like praising God. I came to understand that even though I didn’t feel like praising God, God was still worthy of my praise. I came to experience what it was like to bring a sacrifice of praise to God.
If we as Christians develop the habit of being grateful, we will credit God with those things for which we have gratitude. Besides the teachings of scripture that encourage us to be thankful, there are many scientific studies about the benefits of being grateful. One such study found that people who kept a gratitude journal had improved heart rate which reduced cardiac risk. They also found these people were more optimistic and had better self-esteem which leads people to smile more often. Smiling produces a chemical change in the body which leads to positive brain reactions.
Here are a few simple ways to have more gratitude:
- Surround yourself with visual reminders of what you’re grateful for, like photos of loved ones or something meaningful from a trip or experience.
- Daily choose a simple object like your shoes, a chair, or a meal and think of something you appreciate about it.
- Once a week, take 15 minutes to remember a time you were grateful to someone. Write them a letter thanking them. Even if you don’t send it you still receive the benefit from just writing it. But, you get a bigger bonus if you personally deliver it, and even more if you read it out loud to them.
- Choose a different Psalm each day and incorporate it into your prayers.
- Many people keep a gratitude journal, writing at night at least 3 things they were grateful for that day. Creating these positive thoughts before bed can lead to better sleep.
These suggestions to help one be more grateful simply scratch the surface of all the information available about the benefits of being a thankful person. I couldn’t even list all the scripture verses that encourage us to give thanks. God desires good for us and leads us to have this habit. Psalm 106:1 says, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” This direction for people to give thanks continues throughout Psalms. In ancient Israel’s worship, a prominent feature was to have a “thank offering”. It was a time of recounting how God had provided for one in the past.
One of the things I am continually grateful to God for is my family. As I write this, I feel most thankful for my mom, who would have been 76 today. It has been 10 years since she took her last breath. The following are words of gratitude written by my brother for her obituary, but are echoed by me as well… “Mom was a woman who hugged her children from the marrow of her bones. She made French toast, the gourmet kind, on school mornings when most other children were consuming something prewrapped or microwaved. She was a quintessential mom. The two children that she bore reflect her character daily, and to this day, they recognize that it is not merely her DNA that they replicate, but the very breath of her soul and spirit. And of her view of marriage, it was inspired of God. Married for 46 years to Dick Roberts, she lived her marriage vows and brought value to all before and all from now on who will be fortunate enough to say ‘I do.’ The crowning jewels of her hard work and matrimonial dedication were the five grandchildren who adorned her life by climbing up in her lap, each and every one saying over the last 12 years, ‘Read me a story Meme.’ Oh how her soul did sing the moment she became a grandmother. That song continues in the lives of her precious grandbabies.” This is a type of recounting how God had provided for our family through my mom.
Who or what can you thank God for today? Even in the times you do not feel like being thankful, remember Psalm 116:17, “I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.” Provide God with a “thank offering” which will bless God, yourself, and those around you.
Jody Slaughter is the Spiritual Care Associate at Prince of Peace.