“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4
Thanksgiving is a special time for us to be “thankful.” Our thanksgiving rightly offered glorifies God and is a way to acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from God. We have so much to be grateful for, but sometimes we forget in the grind of everyday life to pause and give thanks for ALL that God has done and continues to do in and through our lives. We allow the constant demands of life to drown out joy and thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a season of being grateful and reminds us of the MANY things to be grateful for. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when we get a few more things or when we get to the next phase of life that we will stop and be thankful. However, that suggests we are not grateful for what God has done and is currently doing in our lives.
Paul says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Many of us have lost that sense of rejoicing because we have allowed ourselves to be distracted by the trials and tribulations of life, by the busyness of each day, and by worldly cares. Notice Paul does NOT say give thanks for everything— instead, we are to give thanks in everything. Good or bad, be thankful in everything!
We are to rejoice always and give thanks in everything. God wants our praise and thanksgiving. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Thankfulness is not an attitude dutifully displayed in response to the demands of religious custom; neither is it just something we say. True “thanksgiving” is the life that we live. It is gratefulness expressed through a surrendered lifestyle which acknowledges God is in control.
Perhaps you aren’t feeling too blessed at this moment. Maybe you’ve lost sight of the gifts that God has given you. Maybe right now the pain of life has overwhelmed you to the point where you don’t see how blessed you truly are. Focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have, and see if it doesn’t give you an attitude of gratitude. Make an effort this Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings you’ve come to take for granted. Here are some things for your consideration:
- Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you want. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
- Be thankful when you don’t know everything, this gives you the opportunity to learn.
- Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you learn to trust God more.
- Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.
- Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build strength and character.
- Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.
- Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.
- Be thankful for times of pain and sorrow, because they help you depend on God.
- Be thankful for those who attack you, because they help to refine your character.
- Be thankful for tough forks in the road, they allow you to deepen your dependence on God’s provision.
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. But, a life of true fulfillment will come to those who are also thankful in the difficult times. It is hard…very hard to be thankful in your troubles, but when you do, they often become your blessings. This Thanksgiving, give thanks to God for every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), but also thank God for how He will use all things for good in the lives of those who trust Him (Romans 8:28).
America was the first nation to recognize its dependence on God with a special day set aside to thank God for blessing us. This custom sprang from the Christian heritage of the pilgrims. Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony established the most famous of all such observances when a bountiful harvest prompted him to proclaim a special day to “render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.” Years later (and centuries after Paul said give thanks in everything) George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789, as the first Thanksgiving Day of the United States of America.
So in this season of Thanksgiving, take part in this beautiful tradition rooted in the Christian faith. Be thankful to God for grace and the many blessings in your life. Above all, we are thankful for Christ who taught us grace and love. “ We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16) Now that is something to be truly thankful for!
As we survey the land of plenty that we live in, I pray that we will see through new eyes each day the ways that God has blessed us and that we will never take God or those blessings for granted. This year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, may we each see God for who he really is and see ourselves as who we really are: People who have been blessed beyond measure and owe thanks to the giver of all good gifts. We have been given so MANY blessings, may we be truly thankful to the God who deserves our thanksgiving!