Thanksgiving and the Psalms

Since the end of June I have been reading in the Psalms almost every day. In the Book of Common Prayer there is a list of readings in the Psalms for the daily morning and evening prayer services of the Anglican community. The list is set up so that the entire book of Psalms is read through every month. As I have read through this book almost five times in the last five months many, many things have surprised me. Just about every emotion can be found here: joy, sorrow, love, bitterness, suspicion, you name it. What is amazing is that God puts these in the Bible to let us know we don’t have to fake it, we don’t have to pretend to be happy when we are actually sorrowful.You also find a wide variety of attitudes toward God: joy, love, praise, complaint, questioning, anger just to name a few. As I read the Psalms, however, the heart attitude that I find occurring more and more frequently is thanksgiving. Variations of thanks, thanksgiving, thankful occur in 46 verses in the Psalms.

As I am confronted with this almost daily I come to the conclusion that when the Psalmist is joyful about God’s providences in his life or when he is sorrowful or when he is simply mad and disappointed, he almost always returns to thanksgiving. As I have read the Psalms over and over again in these past five months, I have discovered that the major difference between myself and the Psalmist is the he has developed a lifestyle of thanksgiving. As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, we are often reminded (and I think that this is a good idea) that as Americans our thanks at Thanksgiving, often now has no “object” we are not thankful to someone or some thing for our benefits. It is rather a nameless, spirit of thankfulness. I think it is good to remind our fellow Americans that initially this holiday was established to declare a thankfulness toward God. But I think we Christians need more. Our thankfulness should not be primarily about material blessings and prosperity but rather a heart of thankfulness toward God for his love, mercy and grace toward us.

More often than not when the Psalmist is thankful in the Psalms it is for God’s lovingkindness, his tender mercies, his abiding love. Even when the Psalmist finds himself in difficult situations (sometimes being chased through the wilderness by his own son or by the father of his best friend) he remains thankful toward God for his lovingkindenss. Here is what is says inĀ Psalm 63:3 “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you”.

I know that I am far from the lifestyle of the Psalmist but one thing I can tell you is that reading the Psalms every day reminds me of that deficiency in my life and is starting to create in me a heart that cries out for that lifestyle.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

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