Today is Thanksgiving. It is the one time each year when we actually think about the things for which we should be thankful. There is nothing wrong with having a day upon which we can ponder, and express, our thanks – but we would all probably admit that we should be reflective AND thankful much more often. When we take the time to truly look at the good things in our lives, we are reminded that we are truly blessed. Sure, things could always be better – but, for the most part, when we really take the time to look, we discover so many good things that surround and fill our lives.
Part of our problem, with thankfulness, is that we tend to be thankful only when something good has happened to us (and, usually, it has to be extraordinarily good!). We receive something good and (as we have been taught from childhood) the proper response is to be thankful. We are thankful when we are full, or satisfied, or at peace. We feel thankful when we feel really good about our lives – whenever our circumstances cause us to FEEL like being thankful.
If you are like me, I have discovered that those extra-special occurrences (and feelings) are pretty rare. Most of our daily lives are filled with the ordinary, the mundane, the troublesome, the vexing, the irritating, and the (largely) forgettable things that make up our daily existence. We often feel more like we are in survival mode rather than thankful mode. “The daily grind” takes it’s toll on us – especially in this whole area of being thankful. We get kind of numb to all the good things we have. So we remain, for the most part, unthankful about our lives – and of the good things we actually experience daily (at least until Thanksgiving rolls around again!).
I get it. It is easier for most of us to focus upon all the “wrong” things in our lives (probably because our thoughts naturally gravitate toward what’s wrong), rather than what’s right. So we do our duty, we handle our responsibilities, we attempt to manage our difficulties, and solve our problems. I mean, who has time (or energy) to be thankful, when you are just trying to get through the day – in one piece.
And then you just happen to run across a Bible verse that takes you by surprise. Something like this: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Just how is that even possible?! How can anyone give thanks in ALL circumstances? When life is a mess, AND I am a mess, how in the world can any sane person possibly give thanks?
Things get even worse when we realize that this is a Scriptural command! In other words, it is something that is expected from those of us who profess a relationship with Jesus (and are supremely interested in doing His will). This is not just a suggestion, or a good idea – it is something that we are required to do. We MUST give thanks in ALL circumstances. How do we even do that?
First, we must realize the reason for why we are giving thanks. For those who have a real relationship with God (through Jesus) our focus is never really upon our circumstances, but rather upon the One Who is with us no matter what we go through. We are not commanded to give thanks FOR our circumstances – but IN our circumstances. We can give thanks because we never, ever, face our circumstances alone. The God Who loves us, and Who is committed to what is best for us, walks with us every step of the way. We give thanks for His eternal, abiding, and powerful Presence. He goes with us wherever we are. He surrounds us with His care, no matter what comes our way. We can give thanks because He has always been aware of what we are going through (NOTHING is a surprise to Him!). We can give thanks, at all times, because there is never a moment when He is not with us. We can give thanks because He has committed Himself (and all His resources) to what is good for our lives. Every circumstance that we face, no matter how huge, pales in comparison to the immense loving care that Our God has promised to us. We give thanks for this. We give thanks for Him.
This same awesome and powerful God has also provided a solution for all those times when life is beating us down… “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) When we turn to Him (and are truly thankful for His abiding Presence), He promises a tremendous reward for our trust… PEACE!
And not just any ordinary peace (because my circumstances happen to be favorable) – but a peace that goes beyond anyone’s ability to fathom, or even comprehend. And this amazing peace not only fills us but also guards and protects our minds and hearts – even in the midst of our troubled times. NOTE: Our circumstances may not change – but how we view them certainly changes – and, in the Light of God’s Abiding Presence, WE are changed.
But, really, everything God promises to us begins with giving thanks. And giving thanks can only occur when we lift our eyes away from the mundane or troubling things of life, and we fix our hopes upon the One Who brings the fullness of His love to bear upon our trusting hearts.
Sometimes, we all need reminded that thanksgiving is essential to our daily lives. Everything we are flows from a heart of gratitude to, and for, the One Who gave His all for us!