How does one offer thanks when they are in the midst of less than thankful circumstances? How can someone sing praise when everything inside them screams for help? Tomorrow across America most families will come together in what has largely become the first day of the Season of Consumerism, yet some still set it aside as a day to reflect on the many blessings they have received. For believers it is just one more occasion to acknowledge the never ending provisions we are granted as children of God. But for many it may be difficult to find a grateful heart due to personal situations or circumstances for which they are anything but thankful.
It’s hard to gather around a table that first time when one chair sits conspicuously empty due to a recent death. It’s difficult to act gracious when the latest medical report was anything but positive. It’s hard to enjoy the day when you are wondering how you are going to get your bills paid, let alone shop for Christmas presents. It’s hard being single for the first time around friends and family after a broken relationship. We are falsely led to believe by some that Christians should give thanks for any and all of their circumstances like zombies on an acid trip as if nothing can touch us because of our faith when in fact most would be shocked to know the pains and concerns our Christian siblings harbor secretly.
1 Thessalonians 5 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. To this day I cringe whenever I hear someone say that everything happens for a reason. That is simply not true! God is not the author of disease, calamity, broken hearts, unemployment or loneliness. It is His desire that we avoid these things when possible. And yet it is correct to say that He can make magic from a mess, wholeness from brokenness. Only He can truly turn our sorrows into dances of joy but our approach to God has to be one of a grateful heart. Sounds a bit contradictory.
The heart of gratitude is something that goes much deeper than the surface circumstances. In one of my favorite movies, National Treasure there was a map on the back of the Constitution that was not visible on the surface but could be seen with a special pair of reading glasses. Those who successfully maintain a grateful heart have learned how to read the whole of their lives with special glasses that see and understand things hidden from all outward appearances. They understand the old but proven cliché that bad times don’t last but good people do. They know the meaning of “count it all joy” when considering present situations in light of the much bigger eternal picture. They realize the temporal nature of this earthly life and set their minds on a much higher reward. I can’t say that I am quite there yet, but I know how to get there.
This Thanksgiving Day I want to offer words of hope, comfort and encouragement to those who are struggling to find any spirit of gratitude. This may come across as a bit lecture-ish but as you gather tomorrow, consider the food that thousands of others only dream about. Look across the table and see the smiling faces of your kids, grandchildren and family and be grateful for their presence and safety. As you bless the gathering, take a moment to consider where you might be if not for a loving Father who provides all that we could ever need if we sincerely seek and acknowledge Him. Consider the dwelling you are gathered at in light of the thousands of homeless families with children right in your own communities. I know, it sounds easier than it really is, but there is a peace that comes from an earnest attempt to come before God with a heart and a spirit of Thanksgiving even in the midst of life’s troubles.
The following is just a compilation of various Psalms written by a man named David even as he was in the desert running for his life. His comfort was his knowledge and recollection of God’s goodness.
“I will give thanks to the Lord due to His righteousness and I will sing praises to the name of the Lord most high”.
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount his wonderful deeds”.
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving”.
“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise”.
“And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of His deeds in songs of joy”.
“Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good. His mercies are everlasting”
I hope and pray each of you have a wonderful, meaningful and grateful Thanksgiving Day.