Cultivating Heartfelt Gratitude
Yael Eckstein | May 1, 2020
He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me. Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. — Deuteronomy 26:9-10
This month, I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children. These devotions are tied to the biblical observance of Shavuot, or Pentecost, which initially was a harvest festival celebrating the firstfruits of the crops. Today it focuses on the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and will be celebrated from sundown May 28 through May 30.
When I was growing up, my parents were very passionate about the importance of saying “thank you.” Whenever I received a gift, I was instructed to write a thank-you note. I remember being in second grade and protesting that I didn’t know how to spell well enough to write a note. But my parents insisted that even a misspelled thank-you note straight from my heart was better than a short “thank you” over the telephone.
Writing thank-you notes became a habit, and after my father died, I found tens of notes that I had written to him. They meant so much to him that he had kept them for decades. It occurred to me that if my father cherished my gratitude so much, how much more does God, the Father of us all, appreciate our expressions of thankfulness?
In truth, there is nothing that we could ever say or do that would fully express our gratitude for everything that God has given to us. Yet, while it is hard to find the right words to adequately express our thanks, I always remember the lesson from my childhood. Heartfelt gratitude is the best form of gratitude there is.
On the holiday of Shavuot, the Israelites brought their firstfruits to God as an expression of gratitude. Interestingly, the text prescribed by the Bible upon presenting the firstfruits tells the story of the Israelites from the time of Jacob, through their slavery in Egypt, to entering the Promised Land. The text concludes, “…now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me” (Deuteronomy 26:10). Scripture goes through the entire story of Israel’s difficulties and God’s salvation so that we might appreciate the totality of God’s blessings and express our heartfelt gratitude to Him.
As people of faith, we regularly express our thankfulness to God. Yet, I think it’s important to focus not just on the quantity of our thanks, but also on the quality. When we step back and see our blessings in a greater context, we appreciate them more deeply and thank God for them more sincerely.
Your turn: Download a complimentary sample of my new book, Generation to Generation, at generationbook.org to learn more about passing on our faith to the next generation.