Will Our Children Give Thanks in All Circumstances?

Here are some verses to ponder with your family this Thanksgiving:

…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11b)

…I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

At first glance, these seem like very simple, straightforward commands. But I must confess that being content and giving thanks with my whole heart have been quite challenging at times. This article “Thanksgiving: 400 Years Later,” by Barry Waugh provides a helpful historical perspective and would be great to read to your children. 

We all know it is good to be thankful—but we do not always remember to thank God for his blessings. The Pilgrims went through several hard months at Plymouth, but when autumn arrived they could look back at what transpired and be thankful in godliness and contentment. Instead of thanking God for what he has graciously done (1 Timothy 6:8), the tendency might be to ask for more. God enjoys hearing our requests, but they need to be appropriate and commensurate with the teaching of Scripture. We must not pray amiss (James 4:3). A word that occurs often in Scripture is remember. We need to remember the Lord’s grace not only during the good times, but the bad as well. And so, as we approach Thanksgiving this year, consider counting your blessings, writing them out or typing them up on your phone as they come to mind each day.

The last few years have been dominated by the pandemic, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and raging fires, with many households suffering the loss of family members and property. Yet even in the difficulties of life, the Christian enjoys blessings from God. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His loving kindness endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34).

While we cannot transform our children’s hearts to make them content and thankful in all circumstances, we can more intentionally guide them toward this goal (and be challenged to grow ourselves!) by doing the following:

  • Develop a God-dependence mentality in your children. Use verses such as Acts 17:25 to help your children understand our complete dependence on God. 
  • Emphasize that we don’t deserve any of God’s good gifts. Use verses such as Romans 6:23a (“For the wages of sin is death”) and Ephesians 2:1-3 to show what we actually deserve from God. Yet all of humanity experiences a measure of God’s gracious provision (Psalm 145:9). Therefore, every good thing is an undeserved gift from God. God deserves immeasurable thanks.
  • Point out the ordinary evidences of God’s goodness. Too often, we miss the thousands upon thousands of everyday evidences of God’s generous provision. During the day, help your children to recognize these, and then give God thanks for them.
  • Develop thank you habits. Outward habits taught at an early age are more likely to become ingrained in the heart as they age and mature. They are learning the how and the what before they can truly comprehend the why.
  • Model thankfulness. Our children learn a lot from watching us. Are we more likely to grumble about a situation or to verbally give thanks to God no matter what the circumstance? Do we thank others in front of our children? Do we thank our children when warranted?
  • Heartfelt thankfulness to God is not only what we should do, but also what will make us happy. As a family, search the Bible (e.g., use esv.org) for the words “give thanks,” “thankful,” and “thanksgiving.” How does God’s command to give Him thanks work for the joy of His people?
  • Be intentional to include thanksgiving in prayer. Many times, we fall into the habit of making our prayers long on requests and short on thanksgiving to God. Before praying with your children, ask them to note specific things from the day for which to thank God. Begin your prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God.
  • Lead them in singing thanks to God. Singing great hymns and songs together as a family is a wonderful way to encourage thanksgiving to God—hymns such as “My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and “Now Thank We All Our God,” to name a few.
  • Ask God for hearts that are more thankful. Let your children know that none of us—even Christians—are as thankful as we should be. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to make us more thankful.
  • Teach them that a thankless heart is evidence of sin. Read and talk about verses such as Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
  • Remind them God has provided for our greatest need in Christ. Be careful to give children an eternal perspective on God’s good gifts. We need more than the material provisions God provides. We need Christ! Read and talk about verses such as 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Trusting in Christ for salvation is the only means of thanksgiving that is pleasing to God and satisfying to our souls.

By God’s grace, may we raise a generation of children who shine as a light in an ungrateful world! May they boldly, continually, and joyfully shout thanksgiving to God, through whom all blessings flow!