Thanksgiving in the Bible is for both the sun-lit mountaintop and the deep, dark valley. Paul calls us to give thanks to God “in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). We don’t wait until our faith is so full and strong that thanksgiving bursts at the seams, but we practice thanksgiving even when we’re fearful or worried because it’s part of how we set our eyes on God and cultivate faith in him. Thanksgiving is one of the key ways we push back against the full-court press from worry, fear, and anxiety. And King David is an example of how to give thanks to God.
The Psalms prove especially helpful for seeing thanksgiving as a weapon against worry. Because the Psalms are so beautifully written, I think we sometimes imagine they must have been written from a serene cabin in the woods. But in reality, the psalmists crafted many of their words in the midst of danger, trials, and suffering. David penned a number of psalms when he was in the wilderness, running and hiding from enemies, abandoned, betrayed, hungry, thirsty, and weary. The Psalms in the wilderness were forged in the fire, not on a spiritual retreat.
And while David does cry out to God and asks for help, he pairs his prayers for deliverance with thanksgiving; he give thanks to God. When David’s life is full of things that would cause worry by looking around, he intentionally looks up in thanksgiving. He gives thanks to set his eyes and heart on God, who is much bigger than his enemies. Rather than being consumed with fear about circumstances, he gives thanks to the God ruling over those circumstances. It would be easy to be discouraged or overwhelmed and give up, or to throw all his energy into seeking control by devising a plan, but David’s response in trials is to practice thanksgiving.
David gives thanks to God in a few different ways, and I think we can follow his example by leaning into gratitude when we’re worried. I’ll mention five ways he gives thanks when in the midst of trials that apply to us today.
5 Ways to Give Thanks to God
1. Look Back
Sometimes David gives thanks for how God delivered, protected, and provided in the past (see Psalms 105 through 107). Before walking through Israel’s history of fickleness and God’s faithfulness, David writes, “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered” (Ps. 105:1-2, 5).
David rehearses God’s works as a means to fill his heart with worship. He looks back and remembers God’s faithfulness and thanks him for it. He recounts God’s deliverance, mercy, or help throughout his life to strengthen and sustain his faith in the present. This helps him know God can and will deliver him again. He can face today and tomorrow because he’s thankful for God’s provision, power, and presence in the past.
How has God been faithful, kind, merciful, or gracious in the past? Give thanks for the times and ways he provided, delivered, sustained, or comforted you through trials in your past. Just like God helped you when you worried in the past, God will help you in whatever worries you today.
2. Consider God
Other times, thanksgiving focuses simply on who God is. David will give thanks to God because of his compassion, power, mercy, faithfulness, and love. “With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good” (Ps. 54:6). David thanks God for his goodness, and he doesn’t wait until the trouble stops or the worry fades but he gives thanks in the midst of the trial. He practices thanksgiving in the wilderness and doesn’t wait until he’s safely back at home.
By giving thanks to God for who he is, our view of God grows. This puts our worries and fears in perspective. They don’t go away, but they start to shrink compared to an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present God. Even if you don’t see the blessings in your life, you can thank God for who he is. As you consider God’s attributes or character, or see him in Scripture or even in nature, grow in gratitude by giving him thanks. What are some of the attributes, characteristics, or truths about who God is you can thank him for?