Writing Songs of Thanksgiving
I don’t know about you, but I’m a professional complainer. My attitude, left unchecked, naturally slides towards a “glass half empty” cynicism. Basically, I have to squint really hard to look at the bright side of things. When I’m living and thinking in this way, it’s usually because I’m focused on my circumstances instead of God’s promises.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Ps. 118
To right the ship, I have to go back to Scripture that reminds me who God is and what he has done. Psalm 118 does a good job of giving me the nudge I need, exhorting me to remember God’s enduring love and faithfulness. It’s only when my heart is tuned to this truth that I’m able to dig in and write an honest song expressing thanks to God.
This everyday, simple expression of gratitude is often directed to random strangers in response to common courtesies. We say it to the nice person who holds the door. We mouth it through our windshield to the driver who lets us into a long line of traffic. We say it when we’ve received a personal gift, writing a thoughtful note, or typing a quick “thanks” in a text. We say “thank you for your service” to our military servicemen and women, setting aside two national holidays a year to acknowledge their enduring sacrifice for our freedoms. And no thanks to us, turkeys are the only ones not grateful on Thanksgiving Day.
When it comes to writing songs that express our deep gratitude to God, a simple “thank you” is a good place to start. But it isn’t like writing a simple thank-you note to Aunt Jenny for the Christmas sweater. Our courteous “thank-you’s” can’t begin to measure up to the unfathomable mercy and grace that we’ve received from God. It’s not a gesture of politeness that He wants from us. And in His all sufficiency, He certainly doesn’t need our thanks. Instead, the Scriptures exhort us to express gratitude as an appropriate response to his love and faithfulness.
So, how do we express gratitude to God in a song? Sure, a simple “thank you” is enough. “Give Thanks” is arguably the best example of a heart-felt, humble expression of thanks to God in song. It’s both a simple prayer of thanksgiving and an exhortation to respond with gratitude “because of what the Lord has done for us.” Check out Steffany Gretzinger’s beautiful interpretation of this classic worship song on her “Faith of My Father’s” record.
There are other ways a song of thanksgiving can be expressed. Maverick City’s “Jireh” is a current example of a song that so beautifully expresses the nuances of this deep gratitude for God’s provision without using the actual phrase, “thank you.” The lyric builds toward this powerful declaration in the chorus when they sing “and I will be content / in every circumstance / Jireh, You are enough.” This “thank you” is simply acknowledging God as the ultimate provider. You can feel the weight of gratitude throughout the entire song as it builds on this central idea of God’s sufficiency and our dependence on Him for everything.
Interestingly, the name Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord will provide,” is the name Abraham gives to mark the geographical location on the mountain where God provided the ram as a substitute for the sacrifice of Issac, a foreshadowing of the Cross. God has displayed the depths of His love for humanity by going farther than we can imagine to sacrifice his only son, Jesus, to rescue us from our sins. The very least we can do is acknowledge him as our ultimate provider and sustainer.
So when you sit down to write your “thank you” to God, run to the words in scripture that remind you who He is and what He has done. Focus on his promises and not your circumstances. This will fill your creative well with gratitude and give you the spark to write a “thank you” song of your own.
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Jeremiah is a BMI Award winning songwriter, best known for penning “What A Savior” recorded by Grammy Award winning recording artist Laura Story. He has been a nationally touring independent artist as well as worship pastor for over 25 years and currently oversees worship for the six campuses of Radius Church in South Carolina.