Thankful or Grateful?

Nov 23, 2021

While we should always be prepared to give thanks, November is the month set aside in the USA for Thanksgiving. The origin of the holiday has roots in acknowledging God’s provision and safekeeping along with a celebration of relationships and affirming our dependance upon each other. Over the years it has developed into a day for feasting and football, family and friends, and the pre-cursor for the insanely busy “holiday” season. The relative calm before the storm. The “Thankful” practice is often relegated to a hurried prayer before the meal or an awkward conversation around the table.

Being intrigued by the idea of being thankful, I began a word study to determine the whole meaning of this concept. Related words I found were relieved, pleased, glad, grateful. The first three of these I could reconcile as they were quite similar, equating to an emotional response. That last one I was one most often equated with thanks, but not always well defined. So, I looked a little deeper into its meaning. The associated words for grateful were indebted, obliged, obligated, beholden. This was serious business.

As I pondered this, the words to a worship chorus came to mind. “Give thanks, with a grateful heart…” and I was challenged by the depth of the meaning of this word. What would it look like to give thanks from an indebted heart? An obligated or beholden heart? These entail much more than a whispered or hurried “thanks”. These are deep and heavy emotional words, related to a serious response to someone or something. How had giving thanks developed into such as shallow experience; one so easily uttered and so surface in meaning.

Looking over the past two years, we have a lot to be thankful for. No, we have a lot to be grateful for. We are indebted to God for His provision during such perilous times. We are beholden to Him for safety, health, science, strength, comfort, healing, guidance, and so much more. Song writer Andre Crouch penned the question that haunts me today.

How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am and ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things He has done


"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

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