Thanksgiving. Usually it is a time for getting together for a time of food, fun, and catching up. Families come together to eat and enjoy each other’s company (right?). It is also, for many, a time of reflection. An opportunity to stop and think about all the things we can be thankful for in our lives.
And to be honest, there are days that it is a challenge to be thankful. What do I mean? Well, we live in a fallen, broken world, and stuff happens. And at times there is pain involved. The loss of a job, a financial crisis, etc., hits us, and in those times, our faith and trust in God is forged…if we walk through those situations leaning on Him. As we shall see, practicing thankfulness, not for the events that happened, but for Who God is and what He will do in our lives, must be a focus.
For others, life may be going very well. Sometimes when things are good, it is easy to not think about taking a moment to be thankful to God for all He has done and is doing in our lives. Maybe we have grown in our walk with Him, overcoming a habit that was stopping us from being what He wanted us to be. Or we had the opportunity to help someone who had a need. Or we had the chance to share the Good News about Jesus and the salvation He offers to us.
The issue is not the situations or circumstances that are happening in our lives that dictate our being thankful. It is being focused on the character of God, Who He is and how He views us who know Him in a personal way.
So, let’s take a quick look at some passages in the Bible that talk about thankfulness. I would encourage each of us to not only read these, but spend time thinking on these verses and noting things we can be thankful for.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Is Paul saying that if I lose my job, or have a major health issue, that I am to thank the Lord for these things happening? I don’t believe that is what the writer has in mind.
What Paul is telling us, though, is that no matter what is happening in our lives, we can be thankful because in the good and in the bad, God is there. In those dark nights of the soul when we are struggling, God’s love and His presence are with us (Rom. 8:31-39). In the good times, God is there. The point is that God is with us, all the time, through everything that goes on in life.
God is intensely interested in our lives. And remember, He understands both sides of life, the tough times and the refreshing times. Jesus enjoyed many things on earth, ministered to many people, spent time with children.
He also stepped to the forefront of the issue of a messed up, sinful world by dying on a cross for our sins and rising from the dead. God understands it all because He has experienced it all. We can be thankful that we have a Lord that is not out of touch with reality.
Practically speaking, I would spend time thanking God for the people He has brought into our lives, for our families, for the things He is teaching us and the love He shows us, and above all, just thank Him for Who He is.
Another passage is found in Philippians 4:6-7. We read in these two verses that instead of worrying about everything, we are to take our concerns to God in prayer and to do so with an attitude of thanksgiving.
How does this fit together? When we go before God in prayer, we can be thankful that He is going to hear us, and answer, and here is an important point to remember, according to His will. The issue, though, in Philippians 4:6, is that when we pray, we thank the Lord that He hears us and cares for us, and that we leave the answer up to Him.
In thanking Him we are saying, “Lord, You know best.” We can rest in that fact. God is the Ruler of all. This is a point of faith and trust in Him also. We thank Him that He knows how to answer our prayer that will bring glory to Him.
That means that though we may not fully understand a particular answer to something we prayed, we are thankful that He has heard and we can leave it with Him. This brings peace to our lives as we leave things at the feet of God.
This Thanksgiving spend some time just dwelling on God, His character, and think about all the wonderful things He has done in our lives. And if we are hurting or struggling, take those to God in prayer, and then thank Him that He has not forgotten us nor ignored us (Hebrews 13:5).