Thanksgiving Day will be here next week and with it our thoughts turn to the blessings we’ve been given. We have so much to be thankful for. And when our hearts are filled with thankfulness, our marriage is greatly blessed.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” – James 1:17
God’s Word is full of examples of thankfulness. We see expressions of gratitude to the heavenly Father for His many blessings. And we also see thanksgiving for others God brings into our lives.
The Bible gives us many reasons to thank God, and a number of these can be found in the book of Psalms. One of these is found in Psalm 100:4-5: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (See also Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:3.)
We also see thanksgiving in many of Paul’s letters in the New Testament. Paul wrote thirteen of the books of the New Testament. Early in ten of them, he expresses his thankfulness for the Christians he is writing to. He writes, for example, in Romans 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”
Thankfulness is important in any relationship. This is certainly true in marriage.
How to Be Thankful in Marriage
In his letter to the church at Colossae, five times Paul mentions his thankfulness. His gratitude can remind us of the blessings we’ve received and how we should be thankful in our own life and marriage.
1 – Thankful to God Always
Paul’s first mention of thankfulness is at the beginning of his letter. He writes in Colossians 1:3: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”
Notice that he says that he is always thankful to God for them.
Paul is not writing to a perfect church. Later in the letter he will address problems in the church. For example, he is concerned that they not be led astray by ungodly teaching (see Colossians 2:4, 8, 16-18). And he warns them about following worldly ideas or their sinful nature instead of God’s truth (see Colossians 3:5-10). But even though they are not perfect, he still gives thanks for them.
In the same way, we must always be thankful for our spouse no matter what they do. We must not base our thankfulness on whether or not they please us.
Notice also that Paul is thankful to God.
We need to offer thanks to our spouse, but we must first be thankful to God for them. This means we recognize that God is responsible for the love and grace we are able to have for each other that will see us through all things.
This acknowledgement of God’s gift of love and grace will keep our focus and perspective where it needs to be. Then we will be thankful for our spouse, no matter what is going on.
The right perspective allows us to follow this command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (bold mine).
2 – Thankful for Our Salvation
In Colossians 1:12 Paul writes about a second thing he is thankful for—our salvation: “…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy saints in the kingdom of light.”
Our salvation in Christ Jesus is what we are to be most thankful for. It is what should bring us the most joy.
Only when we both as a couple have given our lives fully to God can we have the joyous marriage God wants for us.
Until we turn our lives over to Christ, we are not able to have a right relationship with God, much less with each other. Paul writes about this clearly in Ephesians 2:12-13: “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
This gift of salvation through Christ should lead us in joyous thanksgiving to God. This salvation allows us to be the unified one in Christ that God intends for our marriage (see Ephesians 5:31). And it should also lead us also to be thankful for each other and to express that joyous thankfulness to each other in word and deed. If either of you needs to experience that gift of salvation, please read more about it in Meet Jesus.
3 – Thankful by Obedience
Paul writes about another reason he is thankful in Colossians 2:6-7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Here Paul repeats the need for salvation if we are to understand real thankfulness. But Paul does not stop there.
Our thankfulness to God should lead us to live our lives completely committed to Him and His truth as He teaches us. This must be true in our individual lives and in our lives together as a couple. This is what we commit ourselves to when we accept God’s gift of salvation and when we accept His gift of marriage.
We show our thankfulness to God and to each other when we live for Him.
Living for God also has its rewards. We grow stronger—and so does our marriage–rooted in Him, even as life’s storms come. As we are built up and strengthened in our faith under His strong hand, the result is more thankfulness. What a blessed cycle that only our loving Father can give us!
To live our lives for God, we must study and learn the truths of His Word so we can live according to them. We must pray together, commit ourselves to the Lord, and seek His guidance and strength. (Check out our free Couple Connect ebook for a simple weekly plan to help you do this.)
4 – Thankful for God’s Transforming Work in Us
In Colossians 3:12-19, we see Paul’s fourth reason he is thankful:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
When we become believers in Christ Jesus, along with our salvation God gives us new clothing–a new self. Paul writes in Colossians 3:10: “…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Now that we have put away the old, filthy, sinful rags we used to be clothed with, we must put on new clothing that shows we are changed. In essence, Christ is giving us a makeover.
In this list of new clothing, last—but certainly not least—is to “be thankful” (v. 15). This is not an afterthought on Paul’s part. God freely gives us the gift of salvation. God freely gives us the gifts that come with salvation, including compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and peace. How can these not lead to thankfulness?
Aren’t these all traits that would make our marriages wonderful? It is not by accident that God has Paul follow these gifts from God with his teaching about marriage that we read in Colossians 3:18-19.
It is in this thankfulness we show that we understand what God has done for us. And it is this understanding that allows us to live for God—to help each other grow in our walk with Him and to serve Him together. We see this in Colossians 3:16-17. Notice the gratitude and thankfulness Paul emphasizes in these two verses. Once again we can see how vital thankfulness is to our lives and marriages.
5 – Thankful in Prayer
We read a fifth and final admonition to thankfulness as Paul brings this letter to a close. He writes in Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” The word “devote” in this verse is in the imperative tense in the Greek in which it is written. This means it is not just a suggestion from God. It is a command.
The word translated “devote” is the word “proskartereo” in Greek. It means “to continue steadfastly” in doing something, or “to remain steadfastly” with someone in an endeavor. Both definitions fit this command beautifully as it relates to our marriage.
Constant prayer to God will allow us to stand faithfully with Him and each other whatever life brings our way.
The word translated “being watchful” is from the Greek word “gregoreuo.” It means “to be attentive,” “alert,” and “vigilant.” It is not just praying when we feel like it or can fit it into our schedule.
Prayer must be a crucial, indispensible, and integral part of our lives and marriage. And thankfulness must be part of our prayer life.
Giving thanks to God keeps our focus on Him and shows that we recognize and remember how much He has done for us.
Giving thanks for our spouse shows to us and to God that we understand what a gift we have in each other. This kind of thanksgiving demonstrates we comprehend our need for Him and our need for each other if we are going to serve Him together, as we are called to do.
Thankfulness for Our Blessings Brings Even More Blessing
Expressing thankfulness is good for us. And it is good for our marriage. That is why–as the loving and wise Father He is–God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us. James 1:17 tells us: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
It is in the best interest of our marriages to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from God. Without thankfulness, we become arrogant and self-centered. We begin to believe that we have accomplished everything on our own. Thankfulness helps keep our hearts in right relationship to the Giver of all good gifts.
Giving thanks will help us remember how blessed we are by God. We have a terrible tendency to focus on what we don’t have. But giving thanks as a regular part of our lives and marriage reminds us of how much we have been given. This will help us keep our relationship with the Lord and with each other strong and growing as we have grateful hearts.
Paul knew how important thankfulness is to our lives and our marriage. He wrote in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (bold mine).
So this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s really be thankful. In the midst of family, food, and football, don’t forget to be truly thankful to the One Who makes it all possible.
And don’t stop giving thanks when that day ends. Make certain that thankfulness is a part of every prayer, whether by yourself or together as a couple.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching and talk about what God taught you through it. How will you apply it to your lives and marriage during the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond?
♦ Do you express thankfulness to God on a regular basis in your time together with Him? If not, do so now. Each of you thank God for at least one thing.
♦ Do you express your thankfulness for your spouse to him or her on a regular basis? If not, you need to start doing so. Tell him or her right now at least one thing you are thankful for about him or her. You can thank him or her for more if you want. But begin with at least one thing.
♦ Use the following song, My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness, written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, and sung by Keith and Kristyn Getty, as a song of praise and thankfulness to God together:
♦ Close your time in prayer together, asking God to help you be more thankful for and to Him and each other. Ask Him to show you ways you can express that more in words and actions.
Next week we’ll look at another holiday we have coming up and what it can mean in our marriages, Of course, I’m referring to Christmas.
Until then, have a blessed Thanksgiving. And may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
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Photo by Lynne Warren via snapwire (CC0), cropped/text added.