Where do you start when you thank God? We might begin by counting our blessings—remembering what God graciously gives. We thank Him for good things: food, home, health, skills, a friend, a child, or a coffee on a long day. But does our thanksgiving depend on the things God gives or who He is?
When do you tend to thank God most? Perhaps your heart bursts in gratitude when God answers your most persistent plea. We're glad when God gives relief, makes new, or enriches our lives. But what about when God allows a season of strife? Do we still thank Him when He doesn't do what we want?
How do you give God thanks? Maybe you thank Him out loud—a prayer in the morning and one at night. Perhaps you sing praises, keep a journal, or praise Him for sudden mercies throughout the day. But does our thanksgiving grow beyond words into a living response?
Consider the life of Joseph. His story begins brightly in Genesis 37 with his father’s favor resting on his shoulders in the form of a fine robe. God's favor shines on Joseph, too; He gives Joseph dreams of wheat sheaves and stars, prophesying future promotion. But bitterness grows in his brothers' hearts. One day, far from home, the brothers seize Joseph, strip him, cast him in a cistern, and sell him for shekels to merchants headed for Egypt.
With all his blessings seemingly dashed to pieces, what could Joseph possibly have to be thankful for?
Let's dig into three ways Joseph models thanksgiving for us today:
Purchased by an Egyptian official, Joseph enters Egypt penniless but rich in God's nearness. In Potiphar's house, God's presence with Joseph is apparent, for "the LORD gave him success in everything he did." Joseph receives reign over Potiphar's house, but refusing the advances of Potiphar's wife reaps her vengeance. Joseph finds himself destitute once more, this time in Pharaoh's prison. But again, "the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness." God proves His presence is His most excellent provision.
Do you consider God's personal, gracious, all-powerful, and loving presence with you as His greatest kindness towards you? It may be easier to thank God for the elevated position, the success of our hands, or His deliverance through challenges. But what about being glad He is with you in all things? How might you thank God for His constancy?
Consider Psalm 139:7-10: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Let's thank God: God, apart from you, I can do nothing. But with you, no matter what I do or where I am, I have everything—I have you.
In prison, God gifts Joseph with the successful interpretation of two dreams: one for a baker doomed to die and a cupbearer soon to be saved. But Joseph waits two years until God's plans fall into place—Pharaoh has a dream no one can resolve. Summoned for interpretation, Joseph credits God: "I cannot do it… but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." Through Joseph, God provides a plan for seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Promoted to second in command, Joseph leads Egypt as God directs. With thanksgiving, he names his sons after God's prevailing purposes in his pain.
What troubles tempt you to give up hope in God's purposes? Does the thought of thanking God in all things sound impossible? God prepares good works for His children to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), but often, walking in the good the Lord has prepared may mean trusting Him in seasons of deep suffering.
Consider Romans 5:3-5: "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Let's thank God: Thank you, God, for your care for me throughout the mundane, the difficult, and the successful seasons. God, with you, my suffering is never wasted. You are faithful to produce your good from all things.
In the years of famine, God ordains a miraculous opportunity for Joseph to put thanksgiving into practice; His brothers arrive in Egypt to buy his grain. What in the world would YOU do? At first, Joseph puts them through a series of tests, only to discover their haunted, guilty hearts. But time and again, Joseph does not react with vengeance; instead, he repeatedly weeps. When God's timing arrives to reveal his identity, Joseph draws his brothers close. Forgiveness and grace overflow from Joseph's thankful heart for all God has done.
Do you have a heart of deep thankfulness for the favor God has shown you? Does your gratitude for God's work in your life overflow into your treatment of others? It's true; our words reveal the state of our hearts (Luke 6:45). But God calls His redeemed children to LIVE in response to the forgiveness and life we've undeservedly received.
Consider Luke 6:46-48: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock."
How does Joseph's story inspire you to dig in the grounds of your life to lay a deeper foundation of thankfulness for God's character and work? Joseph teaches us: When we're in awe of the One who made us, saves us, and is with us in all things, He makes us fruitful for His purpose and transforms us to live a life of thanks to Him.
Want to learn more about Joseph? Check out our 5-week study, Joseph: From Betrayal to Blessing.