My husband and I established the habit of saying grace before meals long before our children were born.
When our first daughter was old enough to sit in a high chair and eat small bites from the table, we included her in the blessing. We would each take one of her little hands in ours, bow our heads, and express our thanks to God for our food.
As she got older, she’d mimic the way we closed our eyes and bowed our heads, peeking out from under her eyelashes. To involve her further in our “thankful time,” we’d often sing "Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father, for our food . . ." in lieu of a spoken prayer. She caught on quickly, and I’d sometimes hear her singing a blessing as she served make-believe tea to her stuffed animals.
By age three or four, we encouraged her to pray her own original blessings at meal times. Some days she got quite long-winded as she thanked God for everything from her friends, pets, and family members, to the band aide on her skinned knee.
One summer evening as we took our places at the table, I asked who would like to return thanks for the meal. My daughter volunteered. Closing her eyes tightly, she began. “God, thank you for the meatloaf, smashed potatoes, gravy, and . . .” She paused to peek at her plate.
Scrunching up her nose in disgust, she asked in a stage whisper, “Do I hafta say thank you for the squash?”
“Yes, Baby,” I replied, smothering a smile, “even for the squash.”
“In everything give thanks,” reads 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Just like I encouraged my daughter to give thanks for squash, God calls us to be thankful for the things in our lives that are good as well as those that are distasteful, painful, or difficult. His motive, like ours in training our daughter to give thanks, is to encourage a grateful attitude and to build our trust.
When we regularly express thanks to God for the good things in our lives, we remind ourselves from whom our blessings come.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above,” James 1:17 says, “coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Instead of crediting luck, good fortune, or random chance, we acknowledge the Lord’s daily care and involvement in our lives. This grows our faith.
When we choose to give thanks for the sad, bad, and difficult aspects of our lives, we acknowledge that we are trusting God to use trials for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28). This also grows our faith.
So the next time you look down at the plate of your life and find squash, practice the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving. It will make your faith grow.
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