When Sovereignty and Thankfulness Meet

This time of year comes with the considerably high chance that you’ll be handed a slip of paper and asked to write down what you’re thankful for. When your small group meets this week, building a gratitude wall may be the icebreaker. You may even be responsible for bringing a basket of pens and “I Choose Gratitude” sticky notes for the activity. 

Even before you pass out the sticky notes, you can probably predict what others in the room will write down. Whether or not the submissions are anonymous, you’ll likely find others who are thankful for. . . 

  • Salvation in Christ 
  • Family, friends, and other forms of relationships 
  • Health and overall wellness 
  • Food, shelter, and religious freedom 
  • Big life moments: graduations, weddings, babies, and promotions
  • Ordinary blessings: the beauty of a sunset, a good book, a trip to the beach 

All of these are blessings worthy of celebration: each one is a gift from God that points to His goodness and grace. Post them on the walls of your Sunday school classroom, on your refrigerator, on your computer monitor, or on your bathroom mirror as a tangible reminder of the Lord’s kindness. As Psalm 92:1–2 says, 

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
to declare your faithful love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and you’ll probably have extra opportunities to do that in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. But this week, as you fill out sticky notes and look for ways to deepen your gratitude, consider this: your gratitude list may be missing something.

Every Answer a Battle Cry

As I’ve imagined women filling out Thanksgiving sticky notes and putting them up in their homes and churches, I haven’t been able to shake the thought of notes that filled another wall space just a couple of months ago. During the True Woman ’22 conference in September, women gathered in the hallways of the Indiana Convention Center and made a gratitude list which—without any other context—seemed to share the same themes as most exercises in thankfulness. There were mentions of children, husbands, health, and home. Still, this list was different.

The women who attended the conference weren’t prompted to list items from a place of gratitude; rather, they were asked to come to the wall with a heart of surrender. Many wrote with trembling hands and tears blurring their vision as they answered the question, “What does Heaven rule over in your life?” 

They could have answered that Heaven rules over the good things of life, both big and small, over all that’s beautiful and brings joy. Those answers would have been true. Instead, nearly every woman took a different approach: they offered up their hardest circumstances, writing words that came with a cost. Every answer became a battle cry. Each one declared God’s sovereignty and power over painful places and tender territory.

I wonder what would happen this week if you and I reserved a few Thanksgiving sticky notes for a similar purpose. Could we write the same words on both a gratitude wall and a “Heaven Rules: I Believe It!” banner?

The Intersection of Sovereignty and Thanksgiving 

Picture a purple Heaven Rules banner hanging beside your gratitude wall. Each calls you to fix your gaze upward. One recognizes the authority of the King; the other acknowledges the generosity of the Father. But together, they bring up a question Job once asked: “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10).

And should we give thanks to God for both?

Over past holidays, I’ve struggled with that question. It comes up every Thanksgiving as I reflect on the painful reality of certain circumstances in my own life and stare down at the blank piece of paper I’m expected to fill out. I wrestle with whether it’s possible to not just give thanks in the midst of suffering but also to thank God for it—for chronic illness, or a death in the family, or years of singleness, or the failure to see situations resolved in the way I’d hoped. 

It turns out that Scripture answers the question of when and how we’re to give thanks. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we’re exhorted to give thanks in all circumstances. Ephesians 5:20 commands us to give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). 

In Him, we have an example of how to give thanks in unimaginable pain. At the cross, suffering and sovereignty collided. The immense evil surrounding the death of the Son of God was not the whole story. God’s glorious purposes prevailed, and the worst moment in history became the greatest reason to give thanks.

This season, it may feel impossible for you to be grateful for your hardest circumstances. But trust in Heaven’s rule gives way to gratitude. 

A Thanksgiving Challenge 

If you’re hoping to widen your gratitude and give thanks for all things this Thanksgiving, anchoring your heart in God’s sovereignty will help you begin. 

What would you have added to the banner at True Woman ’22? Write it down: Heaven rules over _______. 

Before you focus on what you wrote in the blank, spend some time thanking God that Heaven does rule. Allow those reasons to fill your stack of sticky notes. I’ll give you some ideas to get started: 

  • Lord, I’m thankful that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to You (Matt. 28:18).
  • Lord, I’m thankful that You’re in control and that You can be trusted (Psalm 28:7). 
  • Lord, I’m thankful that You’re not only powerful, You’re good (Job 12:13). 
  • Lord, I’m thankful that there’s nothing You don’t know or understand (1 John 3:20). 
  • Lord, I’m thankful that nothing can stand in the way of Your perfect plans (Isa. 14:27). 

Now shift your attention to the blank you filled in. Some topics might feel too tender to share on a public gratitude wall. What if instead you wrote a sticky note prayer and offered it up for only God to see? Thank you, Lord, for __________. 

Heavenly Father, my desire is to “give you thanks with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1), but I confess it is so hard for me to be grateful for all things, especially the circumstances I long to see You redeem. Will You help me fix my eyes on Jesus today? When I look at Christ’s death and resurrection, I see His suffering, but I also see Your divine purposes and powerful victory on full display. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for my difficult circumstances. One day, I’ll understand fully why You allowed them in my life. Until then, I’m choosing to trust You, to rejoice in Your gracious love, and to give thanks that Heaven rules. Amen. 

Gratitude has a big job to do in us—and in our hearts. It’s one of the chief ways God infuses peace and resilience into the daily struggles of life. What if gratitude didn’t come and go with the seasons, but stuck around all year long. It’s possible with the Gratitude That Sticks set from Revive Our Hearts. Each set includes a pack of custom sticky notes declaring, “I choose gratitude,” and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. We can’t wait to send your set when you give a gift of any amount this week. 

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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