Many people are already in Christmas mode anticipating another joyous celebration with friends and family and checking their grocery and shopping lists twice. It seems each year with the nature of competitive retail marketing, Christmas seems to start earlier than the previous year. In the hustle to be first, a very timeless and traditional holiday gets overshadowed, the day of Thanksgiving. A week before Thanksgiving actually arrives, what few items you can find to decorate the family gathering are already marked down to 50% or more as they take up precious shelf space from more profitable Christmas items. In a world driven by profit, tradition is often sacrificed.
Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is upon us, and it truly remains a time to pause and reflect on those things for which we should be ever grateful that we may overlook throughout the year. I know personally, I have much to be thankful for this year. I’m thankful for victory over cancer, I’m grateful for new love in the form of a heaven-sent angel, I’m thankful for the many adventures we’ve taken in a few short months. I’ve seen more of the country this year than in 57 previous years! I’m thankful for healthy kids and grandchildren. I’m thankful for Unfollow options! I could go on and on.
As is the case each year many will approach this season with anything but a spirit of thanksgiving. It’s hard to have a grateful heart if you are a single parent raising your children and working two jobs just to get by. It’s hard to be thankful in a job where your patience may be tested on a daily basis. It’s hard to give thanks for that medical report that came back and caught you off guard. It’s difficult to be grateful for a relationship that is not what you were expecting. It will be hard to give thanks this year for those who will find empty chairs at the table once filled by their now departed loved ones. We live in a world full of challenging situations where it is so easy to focus on the situations at hand and completely lose perspective on the balance of an otherwise beautiful life. I know because I was once guilty as well.
As believers in Christ we are encouraged to embrace life with an attitude of thanksgiving. But many have been made to feel guilty because of poor teaching or a misunderstanding of those verses calling us to be grateful. A popular passage found in 1 Thessalonians 5 reads:
“Rejoice always, and pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “
That tiny overlooked preposition, “in”, makes all the difference when considering this verse. Some may have inserted “for” here, which is inaccurate and not the intended meaning. Consider these examples. There was no way I was thankful “for” cancer. But I was thankful “in” that I knew God was in control and I would be learning to rely on his strength, not mine. You may not be grateful “for” losing that job, but you can be thankful “in” the process of knowing God will provide you anew one. You may not be thankful “for” a failed relationship, but you can rest “in” the knowledge that God sees your brokenness and is already lining up something new for you. Paul and Silas were most likely not thankful “for” being chained in the lower prison with wet floors and desert creatures, but “in” their situation, they praised God. Job, poor guy, was not thankful “for” his great losses and suffering, but “in” the midst of the absolute worst loss and pain imaginable, he is quoted as saying, “even if God takes my life, I will praise him”. That is the essence of this and similar passages encouraging us to be grateful in less than ideal circumstances, knowing that God is doing a greater work in us than we may realize if we focus only on the pain.
That being said, there are still an infinite number of things in life to be thankful “for”. Be grateful to wake up in a warm home with a stocked kitchen pantry and a choice of clothing. Be thankful to just wake up to a new day! Be grateful for that demanding job that pays your living expenses. Be thankful for aches and pains of a body that still has mobility. Be thankful for that less than perfect church where you can still worship freely each week. Let your grateful heart show through in your social circles. Stay away from social media bandwagons overflowing with chronic complainers about all that is wrong in our country or churches. They will cause you to lose focus on things more certain and meaningful than current trends or affairs. There really is something to be said of those whose positivity outshines their current situations because they are deliberate in focusing on the good, not the bad or the ugly. Have a blessed and grateful Thanksgiving!