The Importance of Thankfulness in Marriage:
 A Couple’s Bible Study

 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This is Thanksgiving week, and this will end our brief look at the importance of thankfulness in marriage. Prayerfully, these teachings will help us not just pass by Thanksgiving on our way to Christmas and the New Year. (I’ve been guilty of this too often.) Studying God’s Word to write these teachings about being thankful has already helped me. And I pray God will use these messages to help all of us be thankful in and for our marriages, no matter what comes.

Reminders of Sweet Blessings

God used two different events this past week to speak to me. The first was the wedding of the son of some good friends at church. The newlyweds are very young, clearly very much in love, and very committed to having a marriage that honors the Lord. It was a beautiful, God-honoring, Christ-centered marriage ceremony.

During the wedding, I could not help but think back to my own wedding thirty-six years ago. Sabra grabbed my hand as we watched the bride and groom exchange vows, and I wondered if she was thinking the same thing. We also wanted our wedding and marriage then–and even more so now–to be Christ-centered and God-honoring. I am thankful for the woman God has given me to be my wife. And that beautiful wedding brought God’s joy flooding into my heart.

Just a few days later, Sabra and I went on one of the walks we take together several times a week. An early cold snap had us walking indoors–at the local mall. Perhaps it was the wedding we had attended just days before, but as we walked by the various stores, I thought about how many reminded me of our life together.

These stores were a bit of the story of our marriage. There was the jewelry store that reminded me of buying our wedding rings together–those inexpensive gold bands that we still wear today as a symbol of our commitment to each other. There was the tux store with the fancy tuxes and shiny shoes I wore on our wedding day (though my lapels were much wider in 1978). There was the maternity store that made me think of finding out Sabra was pregnant with our daughter, and three years later, our son, and the joy both brought–and still do. There was the children’s clothing store with the little tiny shoes, and the toy store with dolls, trains, Disney princesses, dress-up outfits, and sporting goods–each representing a life stage of our now-grown children’s lives. I am thankful for each stage, and each brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

Thankfulness brings joy -

Being Thankful in All Circumstances Brings Joy

How we need to be thankful in the good times of our marriage, as I have just described. But we must be thankful in the hard times as well.

Thankfulness keeps our focus on God–right where it needs to be. When our focus is on Him, we will continue to be thankful in all things, as we’re called to be (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And thankfulness leads to real joy in all circumstances in our marriage.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Our greatest joy is in Jesus. We will not grow weary and lose heart in our marriage, or in anything else in life, when Jesus is our focus. When our eyes and hearts are set on Him and His truth, we will be thankful and full of joy in our marriages.

Be joyful 2

Being Thankful Compels Us to Love

But we are self-centered by nature. We love ourselves and live by our flesh, which is–by nature–selfish. We must live under the Spirit, die to self, and live for Christ and others, beginning with our spouse. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

We are God’s children–He’s adopted us into His family. We’re co-heirs with Christ. He has set us free from slavery to sin and we don’t have to follow our sinful nature. He’s given us His Word to teach us and remind us of His love and all He’s done for us. And He’s sent His Holy Spirit to live in us and give us the power to love as He loves. We have so much to be thankful for! When we recall what God has done for us in Christ, we are filled with thanksgiving and we can’t help but to love others–beginning with our spouse.

We read in 1 John 3:23: “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” What is this command John is referring to? The words of Jesus when He was asked to name the greatest commandment: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). And who is our closest neighbor? The only one Scripture calls us to be one with–our spouse.

When we focus on God and His truth, we’ll be thankful and have real joy. We cannot let ourselves be drawn away by the world and its lesser things. And we must not focus on what we don’t have, but on the good things God has given us. Only then will we love like Jesus. Only then will our marriage grow stronger and our bond as husband and wife be closer. Only then will our homes be places of blessing and a testimony to the love of Christ.

Questions to Ask Yourself

      • Am I dwelling on what I don’t have, or am I being thankful for and enjoying what I do have?
      • Am I a child of God, saved by faith in Christ Jesus? Do I give thanks for what He did for me through His death and resurrection?
      • Do I love my spouse, and does he/she love me? Do I express my thanks for this?
      • Does God meet my needs–not those things I want or think I need, but my real needs? Am I thankful?

Suggestions for Applying This to Your Life

      • Change your perspective from yourself and the things of this world. Keep your focus on the Lord.
      • Stop craving what you don’t have. Immerse yourself in what God has given you. Be aware of the blessings all around you.
      • It might help to make a list or keep a journal of the blessings you notice each day. It can be a great tool to help you remember God’s gracious provision.
      • Ask God to open your eyes to the blessings He’s given you–in every situation. And be thankful at all times, in everything.

Sabra and I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

May the Lord bless you in all His wonderful ways,

Part 1–A New Perspective of Thanksgiving
Part 2–The Right Focus

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photos by Sabra Penley.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.