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  • Writer's pictureJean Brender

Sensing God's Presence in Gratitude and Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for today? I find that I frequently plow through the day without reflecting on that question. In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us, Adele Calhoun defines gratitude as "a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within the world" (1). Giving thanks can actually help us to better sense God's presence and appreciate the gifts that we are are given by God and by those around us.

The picture below has hung in the dining room of our house for over 30 years. After snapping the picture, I noticed that the reflection of our dining room was also captured. The image stirred within me memories of the many dinners in the past that we have shared with family and friends from near and far. The man giving God thanks for his soup and bread prompts me to give God thanks for the opportunities for fellowship and fun around the dining table with people God has so graciously placed in my life.

We may find ourselves in seasons of our lives where we cannot identify much to be thankful for, especially during times of illness, family problems, financial distress, and other calamities. Yet we are urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances (emphasis, mine), for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." Notice that we are not exhorted in this biblical passage to be thankful for all circumstances. Rather, we can be grateful for the goodness of God and his help in the midst of any situation we find ourselves in. In fact, the Apostle Paul assures us in his letter to the Philippians (4:6) to not be anxious about anything but to bring our requests to God in prayer and with thanksgiving. God can be trusted to answer our prayers. It may not be in the manner that we envision would be best for us, but God will respond to our prayers and grace us with His presence.


  1. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 29.

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