Thankfulness or gratitude, like many positive qualities and fruits of the spirit, take effort to cultivate.

Especially in difficult seasons or years like 2020, gratitude may not come naturally. That is why we are inviting you to take the 10-day Thankfulness Challenge as we approach Thanksgiving–the holiday of thankfulness!

We are instructed to give thanks and be thankful many times throughout Scripture. I especially think of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus.” If you would like to read more Scripture passages on gratitude, we have compiled a lengthy list here.

Although Scripture instructs us to give thanks and we know that the rewards of doing so are not always obvious and immediate, there have been many studies that have confirmed the positive effects gratitude has on us.

You can find many such studies in a quick Google search. One even found that, “Turns out, being thankful can have many positive health effects. Studies show practicing gratitude can lead to more intimate and connected relationships, less depression, more motivation and engagement, and better overall mental well-being.”

So, we may desire to practice more thankfulness, but how do we get started? Take the 10-day Thankfulness Challenge!

This is a perfect time to commit to cultivating more gratitude as you prepare your heart for Thanksgiving.

Each day we ask you to meditate and/or journal on one thing you are thankful for (outlined below). You can devote as much or as little time as you have to each day’s prompt, but at the end of the 10 days, your heart is sure to be more inclined to thankfulness.

Day 1: “Small” Blessings

I put “small” in quotation marks, because if you think about it, no blessing is truly small or insignificant, but what I mean by this is the gifts you enjoy every day that perhaps you don’t often consider.

This may be because you enjoy them like most other people and they don’t seem special, or perhaps they are simply so ingrained in your lifestyle that you barely think about them anymore.

This could be anything from a hot shower on a cold morning, the ability to go on a walk around your neighborhood, a friendly smile from a stranger, an afternoon snack when you get hungry, your child’s laugh, or any number of other daily occurrences that we can be tempted to take for granted.

Day 2: Nature

Like gratitude, there have been numerous studies that have shown a connection between being out in nature and our wellbeing.

God’s Creation is truly filled with so much beauty and wonder that it does our bodies, minds, and spirits so much good to be immersed in it. Part of the challenge today is to take some time to be thankful for the natural world around us.

This could be as simple as going for a walk at a local park or in your neighborhood. Even if you live in an urban area, you will be surprised how much natural beauty surrounds you if you are looking for it.

Many cities have “pocket parks” you can enjoy, or perhaps you could try starting a small indoor herb garden. While you are enjoying those green spaces, flowing creeks, mountains, or woods, thank God for his creativity in creating them and how these natural spaces renew our minds and spirits when the cares of the world seem heavy.

Day 3: Work to Do

Now before you start thinking, “But I don’t like my job!,” keep reading.

This challenge could refer to the work you do at your nine-to-five job, but it can also be much more than that. Perhaps the work you do at your day job is your vocational work that God has called you to, but perhaps right now in this season it is something that you are doing to work toward something else, or perhaps it is a way to provide for your family.

There is good in all work done well, even if it is not our calling or passion. However, the work I am especially referring to here is the work you do that may not even feel like work.

Even though work has been deeply marred by the Fall, work itself is not a product of sin, and humans are actually more fulfilled when we have work to do.

This kind of work could be planting a garden, it could be cooking dinner for your family, it could be working on a book you’ve always wanted to write, or it could be volunteering to tutor kids or beautify your neighborhood. This work is not always easy, but it is something that God has put on your heart.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a CEO at a large corporation, or a retiree, God has called you to good, fulfilling work, whether someone thanks you for it or not. You can, however, thank God for allowing you to steward your gifts in this world he created.

Day 4: Your Neighbors

If you live in an urban area, you likely have many neighbors, but if you live somewhere more rural, you may only have a few.

Either way, this is a good opportunity to consider the people who live closest to you. Do you know them?

Perhaps you do know them and they do things that frustrate you. It’s easy for neighbors to get on each other’s nerves. I know my neighbors have done things that are frustrating to me before, but if I stop and think about it, I am grateful for our sporadic conversations and for their friendliness, even though we don’t know each other very well yet.

Whatever your relationship with your neighbors, thank God for them. Although COVID-19 may make it more difficult to get to know them better, even a simple porch conversation or willingness to lend a hand can make a big difference and can in turn make you realize the blessing of living in a community where people look out for one another.

Day 5: Your Enemies

The word “enemy” appears often in the Bible, and while we may find it difficult to name our enemies today, there are certainly still people we dislike and wholeheartedly disagree with.

Since we are in a major election year, this discord is only exacerbated. Who is your enemy politically?

It may be the people in your neighborhood or it could be someone in your own family. It’s tough to be thankful for someone whose beliefs and opinions you think are so wrong and even harmful to the cause of Christ.

The first step is to recognize that there is a disagreement (this can be harder than you think), then pray for that person or that group of people. Thank God for them and the fact that their differing beliefs give you an opportunity to reexamine your own. Thank God that he has given us free will and the ability to use our minds to think and reason.

Your “enemy” is made in God’s image just as you are.

This reminder from C. S. Lewis may be helpful: “You have never talked to a mere mortal….it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

grateful woman praying out of thankfulness

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/AaronAmat

Day 6: God’s Word

Our God is not a far-off God whom we can’t truly know. He desires to have a relationship with us and he has revealed himself to us in his Word. Today is an opportunity to ponder how wonderful it is to have Scripture so readily available to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us of some of the benefits of Scripture: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God’s Word can also be a great source of comfort and encouragement during difficult times. In it we also find words to express our joy, stories that demonstrate God’s faithfulness, and the ultimate Story of Jesus’ redemption of the world.

If you are struggling with reading God’s Word regularly, you may want to try jumping into the Psalms. These Scripture passages speak candidly about human emotions and God’s character and can make the Bible “come alive.”

Day 7: All Things New

In Revelation 21:5 Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Of course, this refers to our spirits, but also to our bodies.

Even now in this fallen world, we can see evidence of Jesus making things new, restoring, and healing. We see this in the way our bodies miraculously heal from a cut or bruise, in the way a baby is formed in the womb and comes into the world, and in the way this earth, though broken and battered by sin, continues to produce nutritious food for us.

In this season of fall when the leaves are turning color and falling to the ground, flowers and plants are withering and dying, and animals are burrowing underground to hibernate, we can be reminded of what Jesus says in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.

But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

As we wait for all things to be completely restored and renewed, we can praise God for the ways he is working renewal and restoration right now.

Day 8: Family, Near and Far

This past year has made many of us realize the importance of family. The Coronavirus has made it more challenging to get together with family and to see some family members in person.

Whether your family lives nearby or they are scattered across the country or even the globe, you may be feeling a disconnect from them due to the pandemic. This is a good opportunity to remind them how important they are to you.

Even if you can’t get together with them in person for the Thanksgiving holiday, consider writing them a note, giving them a call, or simply telling them you love them. I also challenge you to regularly pray for your family members and thank God for them.

Day 9: Friends Who Are Like Family

Proverbs 18:24b says, “a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

Although you may not be related by blood, friends can be our closest confidantes, greatest encouragers, and extremely influential presences in our lives.

We all need people to rely on, to confide in, and to share our lives with, and oftentimes, God provides us with friends who do just that. These people may be work friends, church friends, or people you happened to meet while you were getting coffee.

No matter how they came into your life or how long you have known them, thank God for them and ask him how you can seek to be a friend who encourages, edifies, and loves unconditionally.

Day 10: Things to Celebrate

In this challenging year, we all need things to celebrate. We could all use more joy in our lives.

All the things listed in this Thankfulness Challenge are certainly things to celebrate and be thankful for, but so is this holiday of Thankfulness itself.

As humans, we need occasions to pause from our normal routines and enjoy good food, be with loved ones, and rest. So much of celebrating is about resting–resting from our work responsibilities, from our usual routines, and from our anxieties and stresses.

The Bible has a lot to say about rest and Sabbath, and holidays are a perfect time to live this out.

We hope your Thanksgiving holiday is filled with joy, rest, family, and good food. We also pray that this 10-day Thankfulness Challenge helps you fully live into the spirit of this holiday and draw closer to the Lord in the process.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DragonImages

Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the outdoors, or reading, she can be found mostly in Richmond, VA writing primarily about nature, nostalgia, faith, family, and Jane Austen.