Joining the Thanksgiving Choir

One of the most difficult commands in the Bible is this: 

“In every thing give thanks . . .” (1 Thes. 5:18). 

In everything? 

Really, Lord? Do you know what everything includes? 

Broken relationships 
Wayward children 
Political and societal unrest 

In everything, Lord? 

I read something curious in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah that reminded me of the high value God puts on the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving. Nehemiah 12:8, identifies six Levites who were given the task of leading “the thanksgiving.” 

Later in the chapter, Nehemiah describes how he “appointed two large thanksgiving choirs” and instructed them to march and sing their way around the city. 

Listen to what happened when they marched around the city thanking God: “God had made them rejoice with great joy,” so that “the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off” (v. 43). 

This is the incredible power of thanksgiving. 

Even if we don’t feel joyful when we begin giving thanks, before long, our spirits begin to lift. Listing the things for which we’re thankful reminds us how good God has been to us, even in the midst of dark days. Thanksgiving turns our eyes away from our circumstances and lifts them to God, whose love is far greater than our circumstances. 

Then our spiritual act of worship through thanksgiving begins to reverberate. People around us notice our grateful attitudes. They marvel at our joy despite our trials. They scratch their heads and wonder how we can rejoice during suffering. They want to know more about the God who gives us this unexplainable joy. Before long, our joy is heard “afar off,” and our ability to witness for Christ is magnified. 

Our family has been riding the roller coaster of unemployment and job hunting. The morning I read this passage in Nehemiah, we were particularly discouraged. 

Our daily routine involves walking and praying around our neighborhood, but this morning we did something different. Instead of praying for our needs, we decided to join our voices in a “thanksgiving choir.” No requests, no intercession, just good old-fashioned thankfulness. Like a ping-pong match, we batted blessings back and forth. 

“Thank you, Lord, for fresh starts and new mercies.” 
“Thank you for family.” 
“Thank you for a safe neighborhood to live in.” 
“Thank you for meeting our needs according to your riches and glory.” 
“Thank you for hope.” 

And on and on it went. We walked for almost an hour and never ran out of blessings to be thankful for. 

As a bonus, we met a new neighbor. Within a few moments, we had discovered a mutual faith and love for Jesus. As I told a friend later, “We had church right there in the middle of the street.” 

Our discouraging day became a joyful day simply because we obeyed God’s command to give thanks in everything. 

If you’re struggling with discouragement today, I’m saving you a seat next to me in the thanksgiving choir. You’ll be surprised by how verbalizing your thanks will lift your spirits and fill your heart with a hopeful joy that can’t help but splash over onto someone else. 

If you’re already a thanksgiving choir member, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how gratitude has impacted your life. Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you’re reading by email, click here to visit Hungry for God online, scroll down to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment. I’d love to hear how God has used thanksgiving in your life.

If you're reading by email, click here to be encouraged by Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons.

If you live within driving distance of Brookville, PA, I’d love for you to join me for A Wardrobe for All Seasons—Dressing for Spiritual Success, a one-day women’s conference on Saturday, September 17. I’ll share 3 workshop sessions: “Stepping Out, How Our Footwear Impacts Our Faith,” “Clean Out That Closet,” and “A Hat for All Seasons—Serving God In Every Stage of Life.” 

Cost is $35, which includes lunch, a t-shirt, and a copy of my book, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. For more information and to register (discount registration deadline August 10), contact Kathy Shaffer at

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  1. This has been my life's lesson for the past six years. I suffer from fibromyalgia and other conditions that leave me in 24/7 pain. When my back decided to join the group, discouragement camped out at my door. The osteoarthritis and degeneration is so bad they can't do anything for it so they just continually kill the nerves in the lower back to reduce the back pain signals sent to my brain.

    It's difficult to be full of thanksgiving when your brain is consumed with pain signals. There's no saying thanks when I can't do simple things like bend over to pick up what fell on the floor or have to wash my hands one at a time because I have to use one to brace myself. Or to be thankful when my back locks up and confines me to bed for long periods of time which means I go without eating or when the pain leads to sleepless nights.

    I can't control the circumstances but can and am responsible to control my attitude. We tend to look for those big "miracles", but they weren't coming, so had to I start focusing on my "God Hugs", the little things He does on a daily basis to let me know He's with me in the midst of it all. Whether it was the ability to physically get out of bed or a scooter waiting for me in the parking lot at Walmart or an encouraging word from a friend. Looking for those God Hugs and singing His praises for those hugs is what has helped me to keep the depression at bay.

    The focus on God Hugs has heled me to allow God to use my debilitating pain for His purpose as it keeps me from wearing my problems on my sleeves. Having an attitude of thanksgiving has brought balance to my life. Yes there are the occasional pity parties but thanksgiving keeps me from staying there so that others will see God at work in my life and on my behalf.

  2. "I will offer up the sacrifice of praise..."

    Your post is a prime example of the power of praising and thanking God. This effect of praise and thanksgiving is one of the reasons we are enjoined to remember His faithfulness to us - His faithfulness in loving us and providing for us.

    When you know the verse from Jeremiah - "I know the plans I have for you..." - you know your future is in the best of hands. You can rest in the peace He provides.

    Thank you for this clear reminder and prime example.