The Virtue of Vertical Gratitude

I don’t know about you, but this time of year can be complicated. On one hand, you have Thanksgiving with its communal/perspective perks; on the other, you have those pesky holiday blues that just won’t go away.

Granted, abiding in the splendor of selfless tradition with friends and family is a wholesome recipe. But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you’re physically and emotionally exhausted wondering how you could be even the slightest bit down in the midst of an amazing year.

If you can relate, let’s cut into this conundrum, shall we?

For most of us, it’s fair to say Thanksgiving has horizontal value in the sense we look around and find reason to express gratitude. After all, we only need a breath and a pulse to be thankful, right?

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if thanksgiving if really thanksgiving if it has a slopeless trajectory. Yes, we can most certainly be grateful for what is tangible, be it the mash potatoes and gravy, a dominating performance by Ezekiel Eliott, and/or a nice, comfy couch on which to take a turkey-induced nap.

Yet, if our thanksgiving has no vertical value in the sense we forget to look up and declare our praise to God, it makes sense why we may be closer to thankless than thank-full.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us one of the greatest definitions and applications of thanksgiving: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in ALL circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

For me, a couple things stand out…

1) You gotta love Paul’s savvy in further establishing Thanksgiving as both a Trinitarian and vertical concept (i.e. deep crying out to deep - the Spirit in us declaring thanksgiving to God the Father through God the Son) with his integration of Colossians 3:16-17:

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

2) For thanksgiving to be thanksgiving, it must worship in and through ALL things, even the crazy, turbulent moments/seasons of life. Why? ‘Cause God made us this way! Yes, suffering sucks. I get it. But when you consider God established rejoice-based perseverance as an escape route from joy-depleting circumstances, you essentially position your thanksgiving to have increased trajectory. Pretty cool, eh?

3) When you rejoice and give thanks in ALL circumstances, not only will your vertical thanksgiving take off, but your horizontal thanksgiving will take off as well given both components can’t be mutually exclusive with God the Lord of both. With that said, while a gift can surely inspire one to give thanks to the Giver, it’s only when we give thanks to the Giver purely out of who He is (as opposed to what He gives) that we see our gratitude reach the next level.

4) Finally, the will of God in Christ Jesus can be experienced not only as conforming into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29), but also meditating on the sovereignty of God and what its sovereign over. For instance, when I focus specifically on God's sovereignty, not only do I find greater joy in acknowledging God's faithfulness, but I also find my thanksgiving to mature in consistency and intentionality over time.


Regardless of what your plans are tomorrow, I encourage you: make it a point to look up and to declare your thanksgiving vertically as much as you share it horizontally. You'll find the more you commit to this as a daily reality, the more you'll be able to rejoice and give thanks in ALL things.

And of course, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving and look forward to rejoicing in all circumstances alongside you in the days ahead.

~ CF

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